Retro & Ruffles/Tinsel & Toile – the Vintage Fashion & Textile Show

From our intrepid roving reporter, Lynne Perella

At the Vintage Fashion and Textile Show, it’s easy to find yourself lost in thought, as you review room after room of amazing trappings from earlier times. Everything needed to accessorize a long-ago mirrored Art Deco vanity table is here…faceted glass perfume bottles and atomizers, beaded evening bags and quilted satin bed jackets, a dazzling array of pastel-hued feather boas and scented hankies. Or, daydream about a rustic cabin on the edge of a painted desert in the Old West – where soft blankets and cozy throws are the same colors as the evening sunset; and little buckaroo grandkids run around wearing adorable mini cowboy boots.


High-Stepping in Caramel Leather | Cute X 3 = Pugs! | Soft blankets in colors of a Western Sunset

Make a rapid mood swing, and go even further back in time – to refined high-button shoes, delicate lace parasols, a row of adorable Victorian-era pillows that look like pug dogs, and a drawer full of delicate paper ephemera and calling cards. Or maybe hum a jukebox tune, and recall what it was like to slip into a wool varsity jacket, or twirl around in a felt circle skirt and a twin-set of oh-so-soft cashmere. And every scatter pin you could ever want or need is here, from outlandish glittering flowers to cunning rhinestone Scottie dogs…alongside Mad-Men-esque patent leather clutch purses, colorful airline flight bags and flowered Vera scarves.

The exhibit may be custom-made for day dreaming and time travel, but it is also a shopper’s paradise. I look forward every year to attending this world-class, specialized expo of textiles and fashion – and the various exhibition halls are full of hunter/gatherers from all over the US and beyond; eager to add to their collections. Oftentimes, they arrive at the Show by the busload – like a whole crew of Australians this time – but my friend Jane and I like “making a day of it”, leaving Columbia County by car early in the morning, taking a lunch break at a favorite restaurant in Sturbridge, then making sure to visit every booth to explore the “loot”, the goods, the wonderfully-curated gatherings of very experienced and savvy vendors/experts.

Think of each booth as an island of specialized knowledge and rare finds, staged and styled like chock-a-block department store display windows. And keep your eye peeled as you walk the aisles – in the midst of so much visual abundance, it’s easy to miss a great find. It’s the perfect place to add to an existing collection – or start a new one!


1880s Rare Embroidered Cloth and Napkins | Rich in every detail–French Toile Fabric | Contrasted with Ashanti fabrics stacked in lavish piles

The emphasis is on highly-collectible treasures – such as a magnificent hand-embroidered tablecloth and napkins from 1800s Pennsylvania, featuring lavish blue stitchery depicting a German poem (above). Probably created as a wedding gift, the outcome of years of patient effort and TLC. We also visited with a gentleman from Maine who deals in patriotic-themed children’s costumes, accessories and antiques.  The star of his booth was a whimsical wicker baby carriage festooned with flag-colored crepe paper (below) and piled high with clothing and little hats in red/ivory/blue.  In contrast, the next booth was stacked with exotic fringed shawls, kantha-quilted bed coverings, and folds of ikat-woven or block-printed ethnic fabrics.


A Patriotic Tableau | Casbah Shades in Textiles and Jewels | Shop on Main Street — Vintage Sign

Advertising art and signage were also on display.  One vendor specialized in old game boards, department-store display cards, thread cabinets and towering spools of woven tapes and grosgrain ribbons befitting an antique dry goods store. A couple dealers had large, rare-and-delicate swatch books that had unaccountably survived the ages – their brittle pages displayed row-upon-row of old trimmings, or gouache sketches of designs for ribbons, or watercolor renderings for French wallpaper. Although the show is literally a one-day expo, each dealer has gone to lengths to make sure their booth is a self-contained “experience” – such as Tinsel Trading Company, who seemingly transported their whole showroom of vintage trimmings and ephemera to Sturbridge; everything displayed in type drawers, old cigar boxes, thread cabinets and antique glass-fronted vitrines. Marston House (one of Joan’s favorite shops in Wiscasset, ME) brought along a series of huge wicker French laundry baskets overflowing with blue & white and red & white printed textiles and quilts – as well as elegant dress makers’ manikins and stacks of wire mesh baskets that held piles of fragrant lavender sachets tied with ribbons.


Vintage beaded detail – carefully preserved | Woven Tapes & Classic Stripes | A rainbow of Bakelite Jewelry

Taking a Global Village approach, one booth with dramatic custom lighting had endless stacks of vivid Ashanti fabrics from Africa, combined with dusky-shaded Moroccan rugs, hand-blocked printed fabrics from Thailand, and huge vessels made of horn, wood, and ebony filled with beads arranged by color.  Asked where he found his discoveries, the vendor grinned, made a sweeping gesture, and announced: “Every where!”.

With treasures large and small…from feather-stitched silk crazy quilts the size of area rugs to a delicate glass vial full of miniscule pale pink seed beads…this is one of those “something for everyone” events.  And happily it will all happen again NEXT year. Organizer Linda Zukas has announced the following dates for 2015, so please mark your calendar: May 11, July 13, and September 7.  I’ll see you there!

More photos below…click to enlarge!

For complete details about the Show, please visit