Retrovore-Localphile: Vermodernist Holiday Shopping Ideas

It's hard to believe that the holiday shopping season is nearly upon us. With the economy in the toilet, we want to do what we can to support artists, craftspeople and workers here in New England and the USA in any way we can. This year, we're doing our best to try to buy the bulk of our gifts from vintage sellers, local sellers, or independent Etsy sellers. Here are some of Vermodernist's top gift retro-inspired sources and suggestions this year.

1. The Vermont Country Store:  Since 1945 the Vermont Country store has been locally owned and operated by the Orton family.  With physical locations in Weston and Rockingham, Vermont, as well as a robust online business, you can find many New England, local, and made in the USA treasures for the holidays.

There you can prepare for Christmas morning by purchasing some flannel footy pajamas and even buying some Ovaltine to leave out for Santa in your cherry printed ThermoServ tumblers.

Chocolate Lovers Club - 9-month2. ...Of the Month Club: No we're not talking fruitcakes here, but nothing is more retro than an "of the month club" gift.  It's the gift that keeps on giving far after the rest have been returned and it gives the recipient something to look forward to and thank you for far after late December.

One of our local favorites is Vermont's own Lake Champlain Chocolates, Chocolate of the month club.  Available at a variety of price points for different monthly durations this is a surefire hit for the chocolate afficienado in your life. $90 and up.

The Vermont Brownie Company also offers a delicious of the month club gift option.  If you haven't tasted their wares you are missing out! $84 and up.

3. Vermont Teddy Bear Company: Instead of getting the little ones in your life yet another plastic future addition to the landfill, why not get them something made in Vermont that is both cuddly and teaches them from an early age the finer points of style.

15" Mama's Boy15" Playboy Bear15" Accountant Bear
While they have different names under the theme and occupation sections of the site, we like to refer to these as rockabilly bear, cocktail party host bear, and mod tailored suit bear. $80.

4. One Hip Sticker Chic: Sticking with the kid-gift theme, as we know that once you hit a certain age you can often find yourself in the "let's not exchange gifts, you can just buy gifts for the kids" predicament, we'd like to recommend one Quechee, Vermont-based Etsy seller.  OneHipStickerChic's mod-inspired wall-sized decals can save your neice or nephew from parent-imposed Disney decorations or Pixar Plastic knick-knacks.

In addition to getting their imagination going with some mod-monkeys, you can also teach them the importance of monogramming. $25 and up.

5. Custom shirts and suits by Michael Kehoe Ltd. Go retro with how you shop and consider a custom garment. We've written on this blog before about Michael Kehoe Ltd., a menswear shop right here in Vermont. Jen bought Eric a gift certificate for custom made to measure dress shirts last year and he absolutely loves them. And yes, they can seem a little pricey - depending on the line and fabric you choose, the price ranges from about $110 to $250 per shirt, with a minimum order of two shirts. But, it's about value. With the ability to replace the cuffs or collars for years to come should they need it you will have a shirt that has a lifespan far longer than that of any you can purchase off the rack.   Michael Kehoe Ltd. is a locally owned business, and many of their custom made garments are made in the USA (though - full disclosure - some are made by our neighbors to the north in Canada).

6. Wine. Watch an episode of Mad Men and you'd be hard pressed to find a scene that doesn't contain the best supporting actor "Alcohol." Right here in Vermont some very good wines are being made. Shelburne Vineyards in Shelburne, Vermont has a great selection, offers fun, inexpensive wine tastings, and is locally owned and operated. They do not sell direct over the Web, but many local markets and wine shops carry their wines. $14 - $45.

7. A Ski Trip:  Nothing says retro family fun like a weekend of skiing. Help support the Vermont economy still hurting from Irene by taking a ski trip to one of the many old school Vermont mountains!

8. Midcentury modern iPad Sleeve - Handmade via Etsy. (You can find Kindle cases too!). $15 - $20.

9. Bowery Lane Bicycles - I know that with the temperatures dropping, especially here in Vermont, a bicycle may not be the first thing that comes to mind on your wish list. But soon enough the mercury will begin to rise and it'll be time to get out and start cycling again. Bowery Lane Bicycles are made in New York City. As their web site notes, "Ninety-nine percent of bikes sold in the US are not made in America. We are a part of the 1%. Our bicycles are welded, painted, assembled, packed and shipped in New York City. No big assembly lines, no mass production, no robots. Human hands. American Hands. Our bikes are made with pride by a family owned and operated company that has been making bicycles since 1891." Starting at $595.

Bonus ideas:
Any other vintage or retro inspired gift ideas? Leave 'em in the comments! 

Happy shopping!


A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

Let us start off by saying that the Vermodernists are in no way perfect when it comes to fashion. Despite most people's best efforts, there are always going to be certain mornings when it's simply easier to throw on something without much thought - a ratty pair of jeans and t-shirt, for example. Or when it's -10 degrees F outside in the dead of winter and function must come before fashion. But the important thing is, more often than not, we at least try. Do we always succeed? No. But we try. If we're meeting for dinner in "the city" (Burlington, that is) after work on a Friday we each try to step up our outfits a bit. This doesn't mean going to extremes - it means dressing like a grownup. We don't necessarily don suits, ties, or party dresses (usually). To be honest we've found that if you simply leave the house and look presentable for a dining establishment where one does not order at a counter, you're already ahead of the game. Call us old fashioned, but we really don't think it's appropriate for men to wear shorts or for women to wear leggings as pants to a mid- to higher end restaurant for dinner. Plenty of men and women in Vermont do - we see them all the time. But, we digress.

Since most of us (the Vermodernists included) can use a bit of help in the style area, we thought we would just go through some observations and make suggestions as to how a lady or gentleman might have improved her or his look to look more professional, appropriate, interesting, creative, and fun. 

#1: Suit Sans Tie - A Missed Opportunity
Eric needs to attend the occasional conference for work. Since he works in the green energy field these conferences are often attended by people who think that dressing up/business casual means breaking out the  black jeans. But there are always a few guys who will wear a proper suit with a pressed dress shirt - and no tie. Most likely they are trying to go for the "dressed down president" look - like when the president gets out there and rolls up his sleeves, sans necktie, and gives a speech to some labor union. But we feel that that look generally backfires. It's a missed opportunity. The guy went to the trouble of putting on a suit and a nice shirt - and then missed an opportunity to make it interesting with a colorful necktie or a pocket square. The necktie and pocket square are often the only ways men have to express their style if they wear a suit every day. Without a tie, a man looks like a grey blob - drab and uninteresting. If you're going to wear fleece and jeans, so be it. But if you go to the effort of wearing a suit, take it one more step and add an interesting tie. It's easy!

#2: Sportswear Daily
Vermont is an absolutely wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors, no matter the season. Hiking, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, oh my. And that's great! It's one of the reasons we moved up here from NYC - so we could cruise around on our bikes with slightly less fear of death from traffic. What we've noticed though, is that people tend to wear basically the same performance clothing to work, restaurants, and events as they do whilst cycling or hiking. A walk down Church Street on a busy fall Saturday evening reveals more performance fabric than the Tour de France and Boston Marathon combined. Now, there are definitely some days when due to crazy Vermont weather, you simply need to wear Gore Tex to get around. But those extreme days are fairly few (knock wood). So this winter, instead of throwing on that North Face jacket that you might ski in, guys, try going with a fitted pea coat (about $200, available locally at the Barre Army Navy Store, and made in the USA). And in milder weather instead of just throwing on a hoody, try a shawl cardigan or a Harrington jacket. And ladies, instead of a sleeping bag coat, for those days that are not super cold why not try a fitted pea coat or black trench? Whatever you do, make sure it fits well. All too often people wear gigantic coats two sizes too large, and while this might feel "comfortable" it tends to end up looking sloppy and has the effect of making you look overweight. 

#3: It's a Clog Clog Clog Clog World
Clogs are everywhere! Somehow, like a virus that lives deep in the jungle and one day makes the jump from animals to humans, clogs somehow made the jump from kitchen staff and waiters to the general population. We get it - clogs are comfortable and easy to wear. You just slide them on and you're ready to go. But they have become so ubiquitous and cliche, so overdone - it's time to move on, or at least branch out. Not only are they the norm among many women in Vermont, but they have even made the leap to men's footwear - man clogs! With a whole universe of interesting shoes to choose from, try branching out a little bit more and moving away from clogs. They do serve a purpose - to take the dog for a quick walk or to pop out for a quick coffee on a lazy Sunday. But for going out at night, and for going to work - try something new. For men, there are plenty of great choices:

Clark's desert boots

Still a bit rugged, desert boots offer a slightly dressed up look compared to a pair of hiking boots for when it's wet outside. Clark's have been making these for decades, and they are a timeless classic that will never go out of style.

Cordovan brogues

Brogues, or wingtips, can be worn to dress up dark jeans, and still look quite smart with a suit and tie. The detail of the wingtip pattern provides a visual interest which makes your whole outfit look more interesting, and the cordovan/brown shade are slightly dressed down compared to black. Pictured above are a pair by Loake Shoemakers of England and a pair by Alden, which are made in the USA. Granted, they are not cheap. But think about value - the quality of these shoes is on another level compared to most shoes that are bought for under $100 (and tend to last for about 3-5 years before they are discarded). Properly cared for, a pair of Loakes or Aldens will last decades, and can be resoled multiple times. That's not just a good value, that's good for the environment.

Doc Martens
Enough already said here on our love for Docs. Comfortable, versatile, cool. Get some.

For the women, eschew the clogs and invest in something equally as comfortable as a clog, but with a bit of style. Who hasn't lusted over a pricey yet fabulous pair of Fluevogs?

#4: Jeans: Go Dark
We've all seen them - those "moms [or dads] on the go" with a gigantic Starbucks super Grande Venti triple caf in one hand and pushing a double stroller with the other. Sadly, a lot of times the demands of parenthood make it so parents stop paying as much attention to themselves as they used to when they were child-free, and they throw all their energy into their children. And many times, this results in the wearing of the dreaded "mom jean." You know what we're talking about - those shapeless, light-colored high-waisted blue jeans that should be relegated to the dustbin of bad fashion history along with 8 Ball jackets and acid wash denim. And despite the jeans' moniker, men are just as guilty. Please - eschew those light, shapeless blob jeans and opt for a darker jean - a darker wash is more slimming, modern (yet classic), and offers a more versatile, neat look.

#5: "If you don't have fit, you don't have style" - Clinton Kelly
Vermont is repeatedly rated one of the most fit/most healthy places in the country, but you wouldn't know it by looking at its inhabitants. That's because many people often wear clothes that are too big. If you've just run that marathon or spent your day snowboarding, show off the fact that you don't look like you topped your day off with a supersized Whopper!  Even if you aren't the next Olympic athlete and prefer to spend your afternoon with a pint of porter and a pretzel, wearing clothes that fit (not to be confused with clothes that are too tight) makes you look much better than wearing something Mrs. Roper would wear.

The original mods of the 1960s were known for being obsessed with fashion down to the smallest, most minute detail. They would spend unspeakable sums of money on clothes only to move on to the next fad or trend the next week or month. Despite our love of many of the original mod stylings, following in their footsteps in that manner is not what we're advocating here. It's more about slowly building a wardrobe built on some classics that will allow you to not only look like a grownup, but will communicate your personality and character to those around you.

Again, we are far from perfect, and we're not trying to judge. We just think that the world would be a more interesting place if more people took more care with the way they presented themselves. It's fun! And it doesn't have to cost a lot of money - just ask Giuseppe over at An Affordable Wardrobe. He recently posted this:

Art Blakey playing some amazing drums in a nice suit and tie in 1965. Look how cool he looks! If he can play drums wearing that, surely you can manage a tie once in a while! So throw caution to the wind - put on that bow tie that's been sitting in your drawer for years. Wear that really cool but slightly offbeat vintage dress you snapped up for $25. Leave the clogs, fleece, and sweatpants at home, and wear something that makes you look like a grownup - not a 40 year old man-child!

We'll leave you with a couple of quotes:

"Create your own visual style ... let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others."
-- Orson Welles

"Dressing well ... involves small acts of daily courage."
-- Alan Flusser


A couple local resources (echoed from an earlier post) for some classics:

Michael Kehoe Ltd. - Great, local menswear shop on Church Street in Burlington. Incredible service, stocks some great classic items and specializes in custom shirts and suits.

Banana Republic - I know, they are a chain, and most of their stuff is made in Asia. That being said, the quality of their stuff is generally very good, and they do offer some nice, classic, versatile items that you can use in your wardrobe. Get on their email list and you'll never have to pay full price - we get 20-40% off coupons almost weekly.

Urban Outfitters - Again, another chain, but they too have some interesting stuff every now and again. Guys can find some really interesting trousers and ladies can pick up some great basics and accessories.


Tiki-lite: A Hidden Gem in Winooski

Nothing says "retro" like a fantastic Polynesian restaurant or a Tiki bar.  We at Vermodernist have sampled many a Blue Hawaii at Tiki bars from Otto's Shrunken Head in New York, to Hula's in Monteray California, from Kon Tiki in Tucson, to the Tonga Room in San Francisco. Few of these establishments are renowned for their cuisine, but all are noted for their fantastic kitsch and creative cocktails.

As winter approaches in Vermont, folks are more apt to grab a microbrew than an umbrella drink. However, don't overlook a place right here in "Burlington's Brooklyn" for a night that can serve up both kitschy favorites and kitchen delights.

The Peking Duck House in Winooski is housed in the "Old Mill" building that housed immigrant Woolen Mill workers in the mid-1800s. The interior features oak and mahogany paneling with a fantastic Asian touches.

The restaurant serves up classic Chinese-American food along with some recent Thai and Korean dishes added to the menu.  We have long been fans of Bibimbap and are ridiculously thrilled that we can now find it in our own neighborhood and that it tastes just as wonderful as when we've had it other places around the globe.

The drinks are where the kitsch factor truly comes in as you can get a Singapore Sling, Blue Hawaii, a Zombie or even a Scorpion Bowl (beware).

So go on and put a flower in your hair, Hawaiian shirt under your parka, and umbrella in your drink.  A frosty concoction may be just the thing to warm you up in the dead of winter.

Service is great, space is plentiful, and disappointment has never been an issue.