Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Visit To Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

A stunning scene at the traditional Japanese viewing garden. 

Before stepping foot inside Shofuso, I inhaled the crisp fall air. My eyes soon found a familiar sight---one that I haven't gazed upon in nine years, and my heart soon followed.  The aesthetic of traditional Japan is something I haven't seen since traveling abroad to Tokyo and rural Japan during my time studying at Temple University. And experiencing  something so revered and so well-preserved here in the Fairmount Park area of Philadelphia was surreal. 

Approaching the entrance to Shofuso. 

After removing my shoes and stepping inside Shofuso for a guided tour, I felt nearly overwhelmed with nostalgia. It was like stepping through the doors of the Narita airport that first day in Japan, the excitement palpable. 

I just wish I could go back. I  often have dreams of being in Japan. And I'm sure this excursion to the historic Japanese House and Garden will only serve as more fodder for my subconscious. 

The common area, known as the 15-mat room. 

Built in Nagoya, Japan in 1953 for an exhibition in NYC's Museum of Modern Art, Shofuso uses traditional Japanese materials and traditional Japanese architecture techniques. The structure was moved to NYC for the exhibit, and then acquired by Philadelphia in 1958 where it has remained. Renovations and preservation by both the City of Philadelphia and Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (FJHG) have maintained this traditional Japanese house and garden, and will continue you to do so for years to come.

Source: http://www.japanesehouse.org/

A Japanese tea ceremony class in session. 

In addition to providing educational tours, classes, and field trips, Shofuso hosts traditional Japanese events for the community. Upcoming events include a moonviewing party and Japanese paper arts day. 

And to think that all of this history, and the longtime effort to make ties between traditional Japan and the Philadelphia community is just 30 minutes from my home.

Daidokoro, a traditional Japanese kitchen.

My family first visited Shofuso the summer of 2006---while I was away for six weeks studying and absorbing as much of Japan as I possibly could. But I'm glad that they were able to join me in visiting Shofuso. It made for an interesting cultural dialogue.

And in addition to seeing the Japanese House and Garden, I had read that the pavilion nearby was having a Japanese flea market...which is why we decided to visit on this particular day.

The traditional tea garden. 

Unfortunately the vendors were few, and the wares were more of the novelty import variety. But I was sure to pick of a few boxes of Pocky, of course.

Despite striking out at the Japanese flea market, spending the afternoon at Shofuso was a beautiful reminder that flea markets might be cheap...but nostalgia is free. 


Don't forget... 
There are just 3 days left to enter The Vintage & Craft Giveaway!

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Very Favorite Fall Fashion Accessories

Vintage enamel heart necklace with flowers and scalloped edges. $8 from Impact Thrift.

Fall is my favorite time of the year for fashion and fashionable accessories. The summer is too hot to accessorize much beyond a pair of earrings and some shades. In the winter, we're too buried beneath our layers to even notice the finely-tuned details of accessorizing. The spring holds some possibilities. But for me, it's all about the fall. So when I saw this fabulous vintage necklace at the Feasterville Impact for $10...I snatched it up. (A find made better by the fact that I had a coupon that knocked it down to $8). Thrift score!

Electric blue Olivia + Joy satchel. $12 from Salvation Army. 

Let it be known that I have a considerable collection of bags, backpacks, purses, and totes---all of which I put to good use. But there's nothing in my closet remotely close to this brilliant blue bag. It's in brand new condition, with just the right shock of color to spruce up any fall ensemble. And what's more? It's an Olivia + Joy---a designer that easily retails between $60-$110 new. Thank you, Salvation Army. 

Gold & brown toned wrap belt. 25 cents from the Goodwill Outlet. 

In all honesty, I'm not sure how much this belt cost. Salvaged from one of the many totes of the Goodwill Outlet in Bellmawr, NJ I can only guesstimate that at 99 cents/pound, this lightweight vinyl belt couldn't be more than a quarter. Its golden hue pairs perfectly with several of my fall tunics. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you might just see it in action when I post a little thrifted fashion photo spread that I've been working on! 

Leopard print infinity scarf. $5 from Payless/Cat eye sunglasses. $12 from Target. 

And because it's just an unlikely occurrence that you can find everything your heart desires solely from the thrift store, I've decided to include two fall staples in my list of favorite accessories. Not thrifted, but loved all the same---I almost always throw on an infinity scarf and a pair of shades before heading out the door. Browns and beiges, these are my go-to fall colors, if you couldn't already tell. 

Love letter 'n' envelope earrings, handmade by yours truly. 

 It's not fall unless I've made some sort of wearable craft and these precious love letter 'n' envelope earrings are too-cute to not make the list. Using a printer, Grafix shrink film, a few bits from a jewelry kit, and Mod Podge as a sealant, I fashioned myself a new accessory from vintage ephemera. 

It's not thrifted, but crafted. And I love, love, love them. 

By the by...you can win a pair of vintage envelope stud earrings and much, much more from my Vintage & Craft Giveaway in honor of the Let's Go Thrifting 5th Blogiversary.   

There are just 6 days left to enter before the big winner is announced on November 1st. So get those entries in today for your chance to win these adorable earrings, a copy of American Junk, vintage Eden prints, craft supplies, and more! 

Hazelnut coffee with fat-free, dairy-free french vanilla cream. $1.97 from Wawa.
And the most important accessory of all? It's the one that gets me through the day--- the deliciously cheap caffeine fix. And for those outside of the tri-state area of PA, NJ, and DE...those poor souls who don't know what a Wawa is: I weep for you. Sipping on 24 oz of coffee during a photo shoot, while working on a blog post, or en route to my next thrift trip is perfection. It's hot. It's sweet. And for under $2, it's best coffee around without a doubt. 

So with my coffee in hand, I'm off. I'm grabbing my satchel and shades, and I'm hitting the thrift---where if I'm lucky I'll find even more fall fashion accessories to feature in a later post. 

'Til next time, thrifters! 

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Deathly Debate: Do I Own A Post-Mortem Photograph?

A much sought-after book on the topic of Victorian mourning. 

From the 1830s until the early 1900s, death was very much a part of daily life. High mortality rates  combined with the 40-year regal mourning period of Queen Victoria over her beloved Prince Albert set the stage for elaborate rituals and remembrances following the passing of a loved one. 

And with the advent of daguerrotype photography in 1839, mourners of the Victorian age had a visual aid by which to honor the death of their spouses and children.  It seemed fitting that at a lengthy, nearly 30-minute development process would best suit the dead. And so, post-mortem photography became commonplace for those afforded the luxury of hiring a photographer to capture the likeness of their loved one for the final time. And for many, it was a grim fact: Perhaps the only time in their physical existence in which they were photographed was after their passing. 

Since purchasing a copy of Beyond The Dark Veil: Post-Mortem and Mourning Photography From The Thanatos Archive, I've become even more intrigued by the subject than my first  initial fascination. Though packed with hauntingly beautiful photographs of the dead, sometimes accompanied by their surviving loved ones---it is the essays within that shed light on a seemingly dark subject. 

To briefly summarize: Looking back at post-mortem photography now in the 21st century, we might be tempted into seeing nothing more than a macabre image resulting from a gruesome period of death-obsessed middle class mourners who were as fascinated with the cutting edge technology of the time as they were their own mortality. 

But when considering memento mori as their namesake suggests....a remembrance, the meaning becomes suddenly clear. These images, though grim, have an unmistaken beauty...and a forged bond with their surviving family in a very strange time. 

And what is this peculiar device? 

And so photographers took care to position the deceased, lying in their beds, or propped on chairs. Often times the bodies were positioned in such a way to suggest sleep. But in some instances, family members commissioned photographers to capture their loved ones as they were in daily life. And this meant posing the body in a standing position, and yes, even photographing them with their family in a group portrait. 

Did you notice it? Look there, just behind her legs. 

Perhaps you've seen this photograph circulation the web? While I cannot speak to its  unedited authenticity, I can say that this type of post-mortem portrait was quite commonplace for the time. 

And how did the photographer achieve this positioning of the body? Using a stand that anchored the body under the arms, at the base of the neck and head, and counter-weighing with a heavy base, the body could be held in a standing position. It is even suggested that photographers used wires to better pose and bend the arms, so that they weren't draped quite so lifelessly (as they do in the above portrait). The eyes could be tricky---depending on the level of decomposition. Some could be kept open. Some  had to remain closed And when this was the case, some  photographers  took to a crude sort of  post-editing fix: drawing pupils on the photographs over the closed lids of the deceased. 

Okay... that's a lot to swallow. I know. 
So let's take a moment. 

And let's consider an opposing theory. Some say that modern day morbid curiosity seekers invented this form of post-mortem posing---that photographers NEVER posed the deceased standing or posing in a lifelike manner. So that then begs the question: Why would a photographer use that body stand? Well, remember as I've said before...the early photographic process could take up to 30 minutes. This meant standing perfectly still for a half-hour, as to not blur the image. It is suggested by some that these stands were used only on the living, and only to ensure that the subject of the photograph would remain completely still during the process. 

It sure makes for an interesting debate. Doesn't it? But arguably, post-mortem photography is a fascinating topic for me---one made all the more fascinating by one question.

Is this a post-mortem photograph?
 I call this the Haunted Child Of The Abyss. 

I'm not trying to be a ghoul. So please hear me out on this one. Ever since coming across this photograph in an album at Goodwill and uploading it to my vintage photo gallery, I've been really entranced by it. There's just...something off-putting about it.

And as I became more aware of post-mortem mourning photography in the Victorian age, I began to suspect what that something was. 

Let's take a closer look, shall we? 

If you focus on the hands, you'll notice how rigidly this little girl is posed. For someone her age, maintaining this distinct posing of her hands would be quite difficult, I'd imagine. 

Judging by the specific qualities of the photograph, and the style of dress, I would date this picture to be in the very early 1900s---which fits into the Victorian mourning timeline.

It should also be noted that when photographing children post-mortem, photographers often used props such as a toy or a flower.

Now, if you take a step back and look at the whole picture... you'll notice a dark vignette, especially around the lower extremities. Plain and simply put: You can't see her legs. Do you think this was a conscious decision on the part of the photographer....to perhaps hide the body stand being used? 

Perhaps these factors taken at face value, or considered individually don't add up to very much at all. But when they're considered against the criteria for Victorian mourning photography... Well... could it be? 

Is this curious photograph a cleverly crafted post-mortem memento mori? Or is this just a very subdued portrait of a child from the previous century?

I may never know. But I may often wonder...

What are your thoughts? Is this a post-mortem photograph? Is this post just too damn morbid? Are Victorian mourning rituals a touching tribute or taboo? 

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Yours, Mine, Ours: Moving In, Piece By Vintage Piece

My newly acquired vintage watering can.

Since being with my boyfriend James for over 9 months now, and navigating around our respectively busy and often times conflicting schedules (plus one bridge between us), we've come to the realization that living together would be more than ideal. And as that possibility becomes increasingly more viable, I had a thought.

Can my style...become his style....become our style? While James joins me on the occasional thrift trip when time allows, he doesn't actively go thrifting or flea market shopping of his own accord. And aside from finding a few records here and there (my influence, of course)... he's not really into vintage.

At least not like I am. So I've decided that slowly but surely...I'd "spruce up the space." And ladies-who-thrift know what that really means.

I'm not sure which is cuter...this basket tray or The Beverly Bee newspaper in it. 

What that really means is: I'm bringing in my vintage wares, one at a time.  

Like that too cute to be true vintage watering can that will act as a vase. Or this decorative basket that will temporarily house all of the junk mail that needs to be sorted. So far, there have been no complaints. But then again I feel like it would take a lot for James to issue a complaint. 

To be fair, I do ask for his opinion.

Here. Sniff this. 

Take candle scents, for instance. A scent to fill the home should probably be a mutually agreed upon purchase. And while this lovely candle with rope detail wasn't thrifted, but bought on clearance, I like to think that his opinion on what I bring into his---soon to be our---place matters.

I don't want to feel like I'm taking over. Sure, I cook. Sure, I clean. And sure I have this running joke that one day he'll come home to find the place looking like something out of Antiques Roadshow.

But he says that he's more than okay with that---that he kind of expected that to happen as soon as he gave me a copy of the key. 

And to my credit, it has been a slow and controlled process, a process in which he makes decisions with me.  

I mean, look at these. 

Except these vintage daisy glasses. I snatched these up for less than a dollar each, washed them, and plopped them right in his kitchen cabinet without question. 

It's not like he has to drink from them. Right? Right!? I stand by my purchase. 

There he is. Totally immersed in an episode of The Flash. 

And he's not angry about any of this---I swear. And though I have an obvious bias in favor of the secondhand, I think all of these homey little touches adds a domestic element. It's   just warmer, more welcoming. In nerdspeak: it's no longer the Fortress of Solitude. 

James knows the lay of the secondhand land for me, and what that eventually means for us as a couple as we make strides towards our future together. A steamer trunk here. A refurbished bar cart there. 

And I guess time will only tell, as the inevitable question arrises...

Sure, you love me. 
But can you love my vintage?

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The 5th Blogiversary Vintage & Craft Giveaway

Just some of the loot up for grabs!

As some of you may have read from my last post, I celebrated my 5th blogiversary on October 5th. And it was delectable, thanks in large part to my sister's too-cute cake to celebrate the occasion.

And to continue the celebration as promised, this is the official giveaway. Using the Rafflecopter widget below, one lucky reader will win:
  • A copy of American Junk by Mary Randolph Carter
  • Two vintage framed Eden lithograph prints circa 1960
  • Two sets of vintage buttons
  • A small mystery bag of craft supplies
  • A pair of handmade vintage inspired earrings 

First let me just say that this book is a must-have for any thrifter/flea marketer/antique hunter. The visuals will inspire you to think creatively with your decor and interior design. And it's just a fun little collection of enviable junk.  

I have a hardback copy and flip through it often enough that I came to think---Hey, I should give away a copy to a reader in my next giveaway. 

Button, button. Who's got the button? 

Aren't these vintage Le Chic buttons darling? 5 small aqua buttons, and three larger coral buttons...for your crafting pleasure.  

A burlap sack full of fun!

And lastly, a handmade pair of earrings based on a vintage envelope design---just adorable. Annnnddddd a small burlap bag of some of my favorite crafting supplies for you to make something special of your own. 

Wait. Let's take a closer look at those earrings. 


I love the faded text and discoloration. It's a tried and true vintage envelope, shrunk way way down using the magic of Grafix Shrink Film.

All of these fabulous items can be won with this easy-entry drawing. The contest will close on October 31st, with the lucky winner being announced November 1st. Good luck...and thank you for making these last five year of thrift-blogging a blast. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy 5th Blogiversary To Me!

Another edible masterpiece created by my sister, Ashley. 

It's hard to believe that my love for thrifting has brought me this far. I've been given behind-the-scenes access to my favorite thrift stores. I've collected so many stories from secondhand items and from the fabulous vintage enthusiasts I've met along the way. I've been an invited guest speaker at a renowned university...and have been published in print and online, all in the name of thrift shopping.

And today, October 5th 2015---- my fifth and golden blogiversary, I have nothing but high hopes that Let's Go Thrifting will continue to evolve and inspire.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, sharing, and for thrifting. We really are a community here. It is our spending power that keeps usable items alive----our resolve that says we will spend our hard-earned money on unique items that we've found, not mass-marketed wares that are forced upon us. So keep donating. Keep buying secondhand.

Thank you and you, and you, and YOU.

Keep on thrifting. And stay tuned. Because on Thursday October 8th, I'll be launching a MAJOR giveaway. One lucky reader will win:
  • A seminal book on thrift shopping/flea markets
  • A selection of vintage wares from my personal collection
  • A pair of handmade earrings
  • A stash of crafting supplies, and more!

Zoe says, "Cake please." 

Further details on this awesome prize pack and how you can win will follow this post. But now it's time for me to celebrate. Now it's time for cake! 

   Stay thrifty, my friends.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Creative Cosplay and Costume Thrift Tips From Angie S.

Angie as Gender-Swapped Ash from Evil Dead.
October is finally upon us! And with it comes apple picking, horror movie marathons, candy, and costumes. Of course if you're Angie S, costuming isn't just reserved for October 31st. 

Angie is a longtime cosplay aficionado, friend, and fellow thrift shopper. And she's here to share her wisdom on costumes, cosplay, and how thrifting can help bring it all together.

Q: So Angie, how did you become interested in cosplay? 

"I've been really into Halloween forever, and at 14 I started making my own costumes. After I got too old to trick-or-treat. (True story, I was 22... I'm 5 feet tall, so really, it's not like I can't pass for a  kid if I need to). But I still had that need to prance around in a costume. I knew people cosplayed for Otakon, but I somehow didn't realize that people cosplayed for practically EVERY kind of nerd con until I started dating my current boyfriend. He had done a few cosplays in the past. I thought about it for a couple of YEARS before one day, I suddenly felt like I really needed to dress up like Ash Williams. Now we go to every con we can feasibly attend!"

Gender-Swapped Joker & Harley Quinn from Batman. 

Q: Can you explain the creative process behind this couples' costume?

"These costumes are gender-swapped 1930s Public Enemies Harley Quinn and the Joker from Batman, which started when my boyfriend, Rick, wanted to be a gender-swapped Harley Quinn, and asked me to be the Joker. Since I had already started on the vest for his costume (two thrift store shirts sewn together), I kind of thought about the entire theme of his costume and realized that we could pull off an almost Bonnie and Clyde style Joker and Harley. My skirt, blazer, and blouse are all from a thrift store, mostly altered. (I still wear the skirt because it’s awesome!) His hat, vest, and tie are also from the thrift store."    

Q: What's your average cost per costume and the average time spent looking for thrifted supplies? 

"For the thrifted items, I typically spend between $15 and $35. The rest of it is either purchased online or compiled of stuff I already have. It never really amounts to more than $100, which is a bargain in a niche where people sometimes spend in the thousands on one costume alone. And it really depends! Sometimes I find mostly everything in one amazing trip, and sometimes I spread it out over the course of a few weeks so I can keep searching for just what I want."

Angie as Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2 

Q: Do you have any tips for secondhand Halloween costumes or cosplayers looking to make the thrift store their primary resource for supplies? 

"If you can, definitely give yourself a few weeks' time for finding stuff, because new things will show up often. If you don't find it the first time, you could potentially find it the following week! Also, if you can't find the right color and style combination for an article of clothing, try finding it in white, or a lighter version of the color you need.  Dye can make all the difference! Another thing I've found, particularly if it's not something you're going to be wearing a ton, faux leather can be painted with a flexible fabric paint. I've painted a belt and a pair of boots with it---and it's a real lifesaver. If you have mad sewing skills, the world is really your oyster in a thrift store; you can alter clothes to your heart's content! You can even go through the home furnishing section for fabrics. The main thing I took away from the movie Gone With the Wind is that you can make a fabulous dress out of curtains if you have some imagination." 

Q: Do you go thrifting recreationally for other things besides costume supplies, and if so do you have a favorite thrift store? 

"Definitely! My dresser is thrifted, as well as my favorite combat boots... I found them brand new in the box! There are also some cosplay items that I wear in real life just because I like them so much.  I also made myself a clutch for a wedding out of a pink sequined tank top. I didn't really know what I was doing, but it actually turned out pretty cute.  My favorite thrift store is the Feasterville Impact Thrift. It's massive, and it's right near Michael's Craft Warehouse and Five Below. (And it's also across the street from Starbucks. Close enough for when you need it, far enough to avoid temptation when you don't)."

Angie as Alabama Worley from True Romance
Q: And who might this be? 
"This is Alabama Worley---a southern girl who meets her husband while working briefly as a call-girl. She is sweet and a lot smarter than she seems. And a total badass! The thrifted items are the belt, which I painted, the fabulous leggings, and the bag. I had all of the characters in mind when I went to the thrift store… however, this Alabama costume is a SECOND costume. I had a costume based on the first thing we see her wearing in True Romance, and was out looking for shirts for my boyfriend’s costume, when I came across the hot pink leopard leggings. What are the odds?! When I found those, I HAD to make a whole second costume based on one of her later looks in the film. That was quite the happy accident. I'm also currently using Alabama's hot pink purse most of the time!"

Q: So what's next for you? Any future costume plans? 

"I'm working on a few Halloween costumes at the moment. A friend and I are being Blanche and Baby Jane from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane... I'm trying to track down the perfect dress or top and skirt combo. It should be a blast!" 


To see more of Angie's creative endeavors visit her online art portfolio where you can purchase her work. Also check out her super fun Tumblr here.

Many thanks for sharing your secondhand cosplay creations, Angie! 

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