Calling All Northern Souls Who are Fans of Northern Soul!

One of the main reasons we decided to start Vermodernist is to try to bring together people in Vermont with similar passions for mod, modernism, retro and all things cool.  While we know our blog-following numbers are still growing, we'd like to put a few feelers out to see what types of activities or events the Vermodernist followers we do have might be interested in.

Here are a few ideas we had:

Mod Night at a bar:  We were introduced to the Montreal mod scene via our friend up north Patrick and his Parka Avenue blog, and the Modclub at Blizzarts. Every Saturday night at Blizzarts you can find a collection of DJs spinning Motown, Britpop, Northern Soul, and Ska. Unfortunately it's two hours away. Here in Vermont (especially the Burlington area) we have no shortage of bars - would anyone be interested in coming to and/or DJing/promoting a night where the music was a pleasant blast from the past and the attire was mod-tastic?

Mad Men Nights: No, we're not suggesting nights where you drink and smoke excessively while cheating on your spouse.  We're thinking more of some sort of get-together with fellow fans either when the show Mad Men premieres or perhaps a weekly endeavor during the season where you can put on your best 60s outfit and watch this fantastic show with some fellow aficionados. If the television in a bar/lounge wasn't playing sports but was instead showing the Dapper Don Draper and Ms. Joan Holloway would you come?

Spruce Up Swing Dancing: Eric and I are far from being great swing dancers, having only taken a few lessons while living in New York, but we try to make up for our lack of talent in the style department. There are swing nights at the Champlain Club in Burlington filled with some fantastic dancers. However, on the few nights we've attended we've found the bulk of the dancers arrived as if they were going to an aerobics class (complete with sneakers and athletic wear) rather than taking it as an opportunity to dress up for a night on the town.  Would anyone out there be interested in a "Spruce Up Swing Dancing" night?  We were thinking it could be a night to show off your best duds, whatever dance skills you have, and then perhaps grab a cocktail afterward?

Mod or Retro Movie Night:  Vermont has no shortage of cool old movie theaters, including a drive in. Wouldn't it be cool if they showed some great old movies? Quadrophenia on the big screen anyone?

Again, these are just our quick brainstorms and an attempt to see who's lurking out there and may want to connect.  We welcome your feedback, ideas, and welcome you again to Vermodernist!


Sartorial Satisfaction in Vermont

It's easy to become complacent about style in Vermont - the winter weather is extreme, and it sometimes forces one to wear more utilitarian, comfortable, "sensible" clothes. And when everyone else around you is dressed so casually, it's tempting to get complacent yourself, and easy to wonder why you should bother when nobody else does. But gents, I submit, this is no time for complacency. 

Following up on Jen's fashion post from a couple of days ago, I figured I'd mention some of the options for men looking for some mod styles in the Burlington, Vermont area. Indeed, there are a few gems to be found - from traditional men's shops that understand what a mod cut means, to chain shops that carry Fred Perry accessories.

One great shop in Burlington is called Michael Kehoe Ltd. This men's shop has been in business since 1977 and specializes in custom clothing. This past Christmas, Jen bought me a gift certificate at Michael Kehoe for a custom dress shirt.

Excited at the prospect of owning my first made-to-measure garment, I went in to choose the fabric and for a fitting. When you order a custom shirt, the minimum order is actually two shirts, but they can be of different patterns and have different options. Michael Kehoe works with two shirtmakers and the price can vary greatly depending on which line you go with. The more expensive line runs about $200 to $250 per shirt, and that was well out of my budget even with the gift certificate in hand. The less expensive line runs about $100 to $160 per shirt. There are hundreds of patterns and fabrics to choose from, and the sheer number of options - from pattern, to collar, to cuffs, to the type of pocket - made decision making daunting.

The person who measured me and took me through the process was Tom, and he was extremely helpful and informative. He took a dozen or so measurements, and even asked if I wore a wristwatch so the measurement on that wrist could be taken in to account for the cuff size. One arm slightly longer than the other? No problem - they check for that and take it into account. I told Tom that I tended to favor more of a 1960s/"mod" style and he understood right away, and helped me zero in on the collar and cuff styles that fit that look.

For shirt number one I opted for a classic blue gingham pattern, with a button down collar and double-button cuffs. I envisioned this shirt getting a bit more wear on a regular basis. It can be worn with jeans, or under a sweater or suit with a tie. The gingham pattern is a true classic that was favored by the mods and original skinheads (as in, the offshoot from the original mods, not the 1990s-beat-up-Geraldo right-wing kind)  in 1960s England, and is one of my favorites today.

For shirt number two, I figured I'd go with something a little more dressy; a shirt that I would only wear with a suit and tie. I also figured I'd go with a pattern that was a bit more out of the box, and unlike anything I'd ever owned before or had seen in shops previously. I opted for a more classic, dressy, point collar; and French cuffs.

About four weeks later, I got a call that the shirts came in. Trying them on back at home, I immediately thought, "I can never buy another dress shirt off-the-peg again." They fit absolutely perfectly. The shoulders hit where they were meant to, and unlike most of my long sleeve shirts, the sleeves and cuffs were the perfect length and fit.

Being that your average dress shirt costs about $80 - $90, the extra cost of having one (or two) made to measure is well worth it. I ended up paying about $125 per shirt, and the quality and fit are fantastic. I highly recommend checking out Michael Kehoe Ltd. in Burlington, or visiting your local men's shop and looking into custom shirts.

In April, I'll be visiting my friend Patrick up in Montreal, where he will introduce me to his traveling tailor who will be in town for a day taking measurements and orders, and I'll start the process of getting a made-to-measure mod suit at a great price. You can read all about Patrick's experience having a suit made the last time his tailor came through Montreal, over on his great blog, Parka Avenue.

Other recommendations for shopping in Vermont:
  • Salaam on Church Street in Burlington is a fairly new shop with mostly women's clothes but has a respectable men's section, part of it devoted to Ben Sherman - another mod favorite. They have a fair selection of Ben Sherman shirts, jackets, trousers, and shorts. 
  • I wish I could mention more non-chain shops but they are few and far between. I have gotten pretty lucky in Burlington's local Urban Outfitters. In the past year, I've added to my collection of hats with several $15 sale purchases, including one stingy brim fedora. They're not the greatest quality hat, but for $15 they're quite acceptable. And for some reason - even though I've never seen them on the floor for sale at regular price - they frequently have Fred Perry bags on offer in their hit-or-miss sale section. I've picked up a Fred Perry flight bag, that normally goes for about $75 online, for just $10; and a few weeks ago I scoped out a really cool carryall/overnight FP bag for $40 (normally $80). 

    Given that we're still fairly new to Vermont, I welcome any other reader suggestions about where to find mod/retro styles - online, or here in the Green Mountain State - comment away!


    Finding Retro-Inspired Women’s Fashion In the Land of Fleece and Clogs

    When slogging through the snow and slush, the last thing that may be on a lady-Vermonter’s mind this time of year is fabulous fashion. However, spring is just around the corner (hopefully) and there is never a good excuse for looking bad.

    Personally I’ve found that it’s a heck of a lot easier to find great rain gear and cycling wear in Vermont than fun retro-inspired clothing, but I’ve also discovered that great shopping finds do exist here even if they need to be supplemented with a few online purchases.

    For those bespectacled readers of Vermodernist I highly recommend a visit to Eyes of the World on Battery Street in Burlington. They have a great selection of frames and knowledgeable staff who can help you pick out a pair of glasses that suit your tastes and style.  I purchased a slightly cat-eye pair there that have served me well on those days when I’m more in the mood for a more subtle statement rather than over the top style.

    For clothing, I’ve personally found that in Vermont you’re probably going to have to shop for different pieces in multiple stores rather than find everything in one place. Check out Old Gold on Main Street in Burlington for over the top shoes, a few Stop Staring dresses and more costume-y elements for your wardrobe.  Stop Staring has a fantastic retro-inspired line. I own two of their dresses, which are my favorites for fancier occasions.

    Sweet Lady Jane on Church Street offers some unique pieces that can compliment any retro-inspired wardrobe. Sizing tends to be on the smaller size and pricing can be on the higher side, but deals and fit can be found if you keep your eyes open. Last summer I picked up a great short sleeved red gingham top there that I hope to get much more mileage out of this coming season.

    Stella, also on Church Street in Burlington, is a unique boutique that has some off the beaten path shoes and accessories that always seem to catch my eye. While I’ve yet to purchase anything here, I’m hoping warmer weather will inspire me to invest in some of their great shoes.

    If you don’t have time to dig for clothes and are more of an online shopper like myself, we’ve listed many of our favorite shopping sites in our links section. Here’s a little bit more detail on a few of my top favorites: 

    Modcloth.com =  Great dresses and tops. Tip: Order based on the measurements listed for the garment and not your normal size; some garments can run a bit small. They are super quick with their shipping and often add a fun token gift in the package. I purchased a makeup bag with a 1950s romance novel-inspired cover and hair flower clip here that always come along on my travels.

    Dungaree Dolly Bags and Purses = Great made to order bags, purses, and hair scarves in multiple styles and fabrics. She has an Etsy store as well with many ready-made items. I own two bags and multiple hair scarves which serve as great retro-themed touches, visible even on days when I’m wearing a giant winter coat that resembles a sleeping bag.

    Red Dress Shoppe = Fabulous retro-inspired tops, dresses, and accessories with accurate measurements on their sizing chart. This shop is also fantastic about returns if you happen to get something that doesn’t work for you.

    Heartbreaker Fashion = Fantastic vintage-inspired dresses with many styles and fabrics and fast shipping. The Fifi dress is my current favorite that came along with me to Mod night in Montreal and our recent jaunt to Palm Springs Modernism Week.

    I’m also a huge fan of Etsy where a simple search has garnered many a vintage and handmade, vintage-inspired find.  I’ve purchased clothing, jewelry, hair accessories, and purses from folks across the country.

    Depending on what part of Vermont you reside in, Montreal is also a fantastic shopping resource not far from home.  While boasting all the big city chain stores that we miss in Vermont (H&M, how I miss thee) they also have fabulous vintage clothing stores and great antique shops as well.

    As a fairly new Vermonter I’d definitely welcome any other reader suggestions for Vermont “must visit” retro-inspired clothing shops, so please pass those along. Otherwise happy shopping, and feel free to send us pictures of any of your favorite finds! 


    Midcentury Modest: A 1950s Time Capsule House in Shelburne, VT

    On a snowy, gloomy, winter’s day like today, I thought we’d serve up a plate of Retro two ways. It’s slightly retro in timing given that we visited the house in question late last summer, and totally retro in content given that our destination was the 1950s house at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.

    The Shelburne Museum was one of those places that locals told us we “must” visit when we first moved to Vermont, but given our usual aversion to hype and our unfounded assumption that it was a destination geared toward the history of 19th century dairy farm equipment, and more appropriate for children, we stayed away. After about a year of Vermont living we finally decided to check it out, and we’re thankful that we gave it a chance.

    While the museum as a whole is actually pretty fantastic with its various buildings from different eras, discovering the 1950s Time Capsule House had us giddy with excitement. 

    The ~1000 sq. foot house was built in 1949 and originally used as a single family home. From its victory garden, to the clothes hanging in the closet, to the ’39 Chevy parked in the driveway, the 1950s House offers a fantastic glimpse into yesteryear.

    The kitchen was especially great, chock full of details and items that are hardly ever seen in the kitchens of the 21st century, like a waxed paper/foil/paper towel dispenser, flour and sugar canisters, breadbox, and midcentury-styled drawer pulls. And the perfectly pink bathroom’s wallpaper had us both remembering our grandmothers’ bathrooms from when we were children.

    Despite our love for everything “midcentury modern” I would call this house more “midcentury modest” – far from the modern style of the 1950s or 60s, it is much more basic, and the interior is, and probably would have been, furnished with items not just from the 1950s, but from decades before, inherited from parents and grandparents. Hence the more basic, cozy, lived-in look – especially of the bedrooms and the living room. As we walked around the modest home, it was apparent how “supersized” American homes have become over the last 60 years since houses like this were the norm. The bedrooms were tiny when compared to what most home buyers have come to expect today. It served as a good reminder that we don’t need a huge space for it to be comfortable, stylish, and functional.

    The house had such a lovely cozy feel to it, that we really took our time there, taking in every detail – so much so that we were tempted to hide out, wait for the museum to close, make a couple cocktails, and move in! But our fantasy was quashed when another family who had a couple of screaming children joined us in the living room and looked at us strangely as we lounged on the couch, reading LIFE. 

    If you’re in the Burlington/Shelburne area this summer and have put off taking a stroll around the grounds of the museum, it is definitely worth a visit! Especially cool, in addition to the 1950s House, is the recycled shipping container home also on view – check it out!


    Vermodernists Get Inspiration From the West Coast

    Part of the inspiration for starting Vermodernist came from our recent trip out to Palm Springs, California for Modernism Week. Not only did it give us a little welcome respite from cold and snowy Vermont weather, but we got a taste of some of the finest midcentury modern architecture and fashion around.

    We stayed in the fabulous Del Marcos hotel, designed by William F. Cody and built in 1947, which served as a perfect home base for the week’s festivities.
    The Del Marcos Hotel
    One of the most interesting parts of our trip was a three hour architectural bus tour around Palm Springs where our guide pointed out homes and buildings designed by Donald Wexler, William F. Cody, Albert Frey, John Lautner, and Richard Neutra to name a few.

    Featuring butterfly and flat roofs, long glass panels, and meticulous landscaping, the homes and buildings lining the streets represented an era gone by where even the gas stations were designed with innovation and purpose. There were no McMansions towering about in “new” developments, and those who had invested in these architectural marvels seemed to keep their homes up to original standards with pride and an abundance of care.
    Palm Springs home designed by Donald Wexler

    Palm Springs Welcome Center, formerly a gas station

    Fashion was another component of the week, with a special exhibit of Braniff airline uniforms and paraphernalia. Other than the name sounding familiar, we didn’t recall Braniff airlines so the exhibit was definitely a blast from the past. A video played in the background showing Braniff’s vision of “the end of the Plain Plane” where flight attendants wearing vibrantly colored uniforms - designed by Emilio Pucci - and clear plastic bubble helmets, catered to passengers’ every whim. This vision of the “future” particularly struck a chord with us because when we landed in California the jetway at the terminal broke and we were literally stuck on the plane for a half hour as passengers panicked, yelled, and cursed the idea of air travel.

    Braniff Airlines Stewardess Uniform

    Braniff Airlines Stewardess Uniform
    Braniff Airlines Commercials

    Interspersed with lovely cocktail parties, uptown art hops, a tour of Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate, and shopping at some fabulous vintage clothing and furniture stores, the trip was a welcome dose of midcentury style that has inspired us to look for more midcentury wonders closer to home.

    Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms Home

    In Frank Sinatra's home

    So I guess that leads us to our first reader question of the Vermodernist blog – Are there any midcentury modern buildings that you consider “must sees” in Vermont?

    Welcome to Vermodernist

    Thanks for stopping by and welcome to the inaugural post of Vermodernist!

    Who We Are: Two recent transplants to Vermont with a passion for all things mod, vintage and retro. We don’t claim to be experts on mod music, fashion, or architecture, but we hope to start a dialogue and community among Vermonters sharing similar interests.

    Who You Are: Someone who loves midcentury modern architecture, with a wardrobe that could easily slip you into the cast of Mad Men, I Love Lucy, or Quadrophenia, who has a great appreciation of music from the past.

    What We’ll Talk About: Midcentury architecture, furniture, fashion, music, movies, and themed events with a focus (when applicable) on Vermont-based notable events, shopping opportunities, and points of interest.
    We look forward to the future of Vermodernist and welcome your feedback and tips as we go!