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A blog with a daily splash of vintage swimwear, vintage fashion, news, designer profiles and all things retro.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

GlamourScoop - Meet Lizzie Bramlett of Fuzzielizzie Vintage Clothing

Cute as a button right? Meet Lizzie Bramlett, owner of Fuzzylizzie Vintage Clothing, fellow vintage swimsuit and sportswear collector, blogger, historian, VFG member and all around terrific gal. Someone I can call an online friend and who always has the right answer to my sometimes quirky querries.

I met Lizzie through the Vintage Fashion Guild and have developed a deep respect for her knowledge and enthusiasm about vintage clothing, companies, designers, you name it. Some of my recent favorite posts from her blog are the Gantner Swimwear Company brochure with fascinating info and a 1920s Mermaid Bathing Bandeau.

Tell us a bit about your self.

I've loved history as long as I can remember, and majored in it in college. Along the way I also got a teaching certificate, so I ended up spending 28 years in the classroom, teaching history and writing to 5th graders. I used my growing vintage clothing collection a lot to show the kids how people dressed in the past, and I was always planning historic dress-up days so I could wear my treasures. After ebay came along in the late 1990s, I began to connect with other people who were buying and selling vintage clothing. Some of us eventually formed the Vintage Fashion Guild. A project there that I've been involved with since 2004 is VFG's Label Resource. I've been the coordinator of that project for the past five years. I retired from teaching in 2005, and the same year started my blog, The Vintage Traveler.

Originally I was just posting about museum exhibits I saw, but before long I was posting about my collection and about flea markets, and about trends in the vintage industry. I also like to connect with designers and companies from the past, or with family members who can tell the story of their family's part of fashion history. Many of these stories have been made into articles on my website, Fuzzylizzie.com.

How did you become interested in vintage clothing?

In 1976 I discovered a book called Cheap Chic, which was written by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy. They had been publishing a magazine, or rather a newsletter, called Rags, which was focused on the growing vintage clothing scene. The book was a revelation to me, especially since my local cashmere company, Hadley, had just closed, and with it their factory outlet, my source of cheap cashmere sweaters. I read in Cheap Chic that one could find all kinds of wonderful old clothes in thrift stores and in a new kind of store, the vintage clothing store. There were no vintage stores in my area, but I started visiting thrifts, and discovered vintage cashmere. I was hooked.

I know you like swimwear and sportswear. What are some of your other interests?

I love all kinds of sportswear and travel clothing from the late 1910s through the mid 1970s. I basically collect for myself, as I would have been if I were an active woman in 1918 or 1943, or 1957. And it's not just about clothing. If I have a 1937 travel suit, then I want the appropriate hat and gloves and handbag and shoes...

I also collect print resources and photographs that tie in with the clothing collection. Vintage photos showing garments similar to the ones in my collection are of special interest. I like sales brochures from sportswear companies and material from travel companies telling women travelers how to pack. Lately I've also developed an interest in the textile industry in North Carolina. I love finding old material and photos from the many weaving and sewing mills in my area.

We love reading your blog. It seems like you get some interesting contact with living history. Can you tell us one such memorable event?

Probably my favorite interview ever was with Juli Lynne Charlot, the woman who made the first poodle skirts in the late 1940s. She had such a long and varied career, and though she is near 90, she is still so full of life and is an incredible source of information. I connected with her through a friend of a friend of hers who had visited her in Mexico where she now lives. When the friend returned home, she Googled Juli Lynne Charlot and found where I had mentioned her in an article on fuzzylizzie.com. She put me in touch with her friend who gave me Juli Lynne's phone number. I could have talked with her for hours!

I've got one coming up that people are going to love. Not to give it away, but this was a designer of decorated handbags....

What has been your favorite museum show you've seen or vintage fashion related event that you attended recently?

My favorite is always the one I saw last. In this case it was the exhibit of Katherine Hepburn's clothing at the Kent State University Museum. I love Kent State because it is always so uncrowded. You can really take your time and study the exhibits without feeling rushed.

What is your own personal style like?

I've always been a very non-fussy dresser; even as a little girl I hated ruffles and frills. Now that I do not work, my style is very casual, almost tomboyish. I love striped Breton tees, Levis 501s, Converse All stars, that sort of thing. Yes I'd say I'm a bit of a tomboy, but I do love a good black pleated skirt, with a flat front, pleats stitched to the hips. My friends say I'm picky about what I wear. I say, I know what I like.

If I need a dress, I usually will sew it myself using a vintage pattern.

People might be disappointed to find that I really don't wear a lot of vintage. I do still have quite a few sweaters I wear, and some wonderful jackets. Most of the vintage I wear is from that great uncluttered period, the early 60s.

How did the name 'fuzzylizzie' come about?

It's a family story. While my mother was pregnant with me, they decided that if the baby was a girl, they'd name her Elizabeth Anne, in memory of my father's mother who had recently died. So when I arrived, that was what was entered on the birth certificate. But within a day or two, after the novelty of having a precious little girl wore off, I suppose, it became glaringly obvious that my strongest feature was the unruly fuzz on my head. For some reason my father thought it was funny, and he started referring to me as Fuzzylizzie.

This upset my poor mother so
much that she called in the nurse in charge of the birth certificate and had the thing changed. My new name was Sharon Elizabeth. That somehow nipped the fuzzy nick-name, and saved me from a lifetime of embarrassment concerning my name.

Years later, the internet is new, ebay
is new, and all of a sudden, I have to pick an identity. At the time I was still teaching, and really had no thoughts of forming a business, but I did want to pick a name that meant something to me. Life had been rough for the past two years; my father had just lost a two year battle with cancer, and my mother's health was failing. I was in a nostalgic mood. I kept thinking about the little story about my name, and so I settled on Fuzzylizzie as my ebay id. And now it's also twitter and etsy and .com and a host of sites where I'm registered. It really is who I am in many ways.

What styles/eras do you think define you best?

The clothes I find to be most wearable are from the early 1960s. Maybe that is because in the early 60s I was still wearing little girl clothes, and I was jealous of my older cousin Nancy who got to wear all kinds of cool things that I was too young for! And, as I said, I like the uncluttered look. I'm just Jackie Kennedy at heart, I suppose.

Do you remember your very first piece of vintage clothing you purchased?

I do. I was in high school when I went with a friend and her mother to an estate sale. There were several 1920s handbags, and I bought a fantastic beaded one for 25 cents! Over the years I've really beat myself up over leaving the others behind! I still have that bag, by the way.

How do you think the vintage market is different today than it was a decade ago?

Where do I start?

Ten years ago many people did not even consider stuff from the 1970s to be vintage. Now, in some people's minds, if it is from last year, it's vintage. Ten years ago I could go into a vintage clothing store and the majority of the stock would be from before 1970. Now in most stores I've
been in recently, it is mainly from after 1970. The internet has made it very easy for anyone to set up a business, and there are 1000s of people selling vintage clothing on the net through sites like ebay and etsy. Many of these sellers are professionals, who know their business, but others are not. The burden of knowing what you are considering buying is now on the buyer, as so many sellers just do not have a clue.

How do you think the vintage market will look a decade from now?

I'm assuming that the winds of fashion will eventually blow in a
different direction, and that "vintage" will cease to be trendy. I think there will always be a market for vintage clothing, as collecting is not going away, and the individualist who loves vintage styling will always be dressing in it. I think we do have to face the fact that the supply of older vintage, say older than the 1970s when clothing became cheaper and people started buying more clothing, is just going to keep getting scarcer.

What is your holy grail for your collection?

I have a very long list of "wants". At the top of the list is probably a 1920s sports dress or ensemble by French designer Patou. I'd settle for a Chanel of the same type.

What book are you currently reading?

I'm reading a biography of Emily Hahn, writer and lady adventurer, Nobody Said Not to Go, by Ken Cuthbertson. She was an incredible woman!

I read a lot, mainly fashion history, women's studies, local history... I like novels, but really do lean toward non-fiction. I am planning on rereading some of the 20th century Southern women's works this summer - Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers and that sort. I just finished rereading
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird because I read that she is finally going to talk about her life. And it gives me a good excuse to revisit the movie and enjoy Mr. Gregory Peck!

Favorite Movies?

I can't say I have one. I do love movies so much but to say I have a favorite is just impossible! I think I probably enjoy movies from the 1950s and into the early 60s most.

Favorite Designers?

Looking at it from a personal perspective, I'd have to say Coco Chanel, and continuing into today, what Lagerfeld does at Chanel. Year after year I look at what he puts down the runway and I think, "If only I had the money." Several years ago I splurged and bought a Chanel couture dress and coat ensemble from 1967 because it was if the set had been designed with me in mind. It's so wonderful that I've never worn it.

I also really admire all the American sportswear greats - Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Tina Leser, and Tom Brigance. They turned out some mighty fine clothes. I also greatly admire some of the mainly anonymous designers who worked for the big sportswear companies like White Stag and Jantzen.

You'd laugh if you knew this about me.

I once wore blue for 119 consecutive working days. I know this because the kids in my classroom were secretly keeping count. They had heard from my former students that I wore a lot of blue (yes, kids DO notice what you wear!) and so had started keeping count on the first day of school. On one day in February for some reason there was no blue in the wardrobe mix. I figured out pretty quickly that something was agitating the kids, and after a bit of prodding, one girl finally spilled the beans about the count!

Thanks so much Lizzie for spending time with us today! I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Lizzie just a wee bit more.


Marcy said...

what a delight! thank you Pam, and thank you, Lizzie!!

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

Oh, thank you for this! I adore Lizzie's blog, and it was wonderful to read more about her. Love the photo of Lizzie in her blue (!) plaid (Pendleton 49er?) jacket, but can't help wishing there was also one of her in that Chanel outfit she mentioned.

Great interview--thanks again!

Jen O said...

thanks for this interview, it's nice to fill out FuzzyLizzie's personality a bit beyond what we know of her already!

Joules said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joules said...

Thank you, Pam and Lizzie, for this terrific
interview! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the revelations!
Inspired to dig up my copy of "Cheap Chic" for a revisit too.

Tangerine Boutique said...

Wonderful interview! Thank you!

Tangerine Boutique said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the nice comments!

Yes, Karen, that is a 49er. I actually won this one from a contest on Pendleton's facebook page. It came from the company's archive!

The Chanel outfit is... blue.