Help! I think I bought a fake:

Tips on Buying Authentic Handbags at the Thrift Store

I’d been looking for years and there it was. In a sea of others. Its back to me, facing the wall. I could tell it was special. The textured navy body, the British tan leather piping, the top handle, the contrasting stitching. Could it be? I raced to it, apologized to the small child I had nearly trampled, held my breath, and flipped it over, looking for the tell-tale stamp: the words “Dooney & Bourke All Weather Leather” and the infamous duck logo.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

It was even prettier than I thought it would be. And in excellent condition. Nary a scuff, scratch, or pen mark. I almost couldn’t bear to look at the price tag. I had come across others in thrift stores before, in worse condition, but the price was always at least $75. Now for the second moment of truth (the first, of course, being the duck-or-no-duck revelation). Could I afford to take this baby home with me?  Tell me your damage, Dooney!

$14.99. Yes, yes I could afford to take it home.

Next to vintage Coach bags, I would say Dooney & Bourke purses rank second for most sought-after vintage bag on etsy (based on absolutely no real evidence so do with that what you will), and to find one so cheap had made me gleeful. So gleeful that I did absolutely nothing to check the authenticity of the bag. I tossed it in my red, plastic basket-cart-thing (dear Value Village, what is this thing and why do none of the wheels work and how come I keep banging myself in the shins with it?) and strutted my stuff to the check-out line, where I enthusiastically put chip-card to card reader faster than you can say, “Check for a serial number first.”

And then I got home.

Did some internet research herehere, and here.

And discovered it’s a fake.

But look how cute it looks with this vintage plaid cape:

If we ever get a real fall in Alberta, I totally plan to wear this.

Here are some telltale signs of a fake handbag and things you can be on the lookout for when you’re standing under the florescent thrift store lights, trying to make a decision about whether that too-good-to-be-true designer bag is actually too-good-too-be-true:

  • Check the logo.
    Make sure the lettering on the label is in the right font. I was duped by the duck, but once I got home, I really examined the font of the writing surrounding the duck and compared it to the authentic labels I found online. On an authentic Dooney & Bourke label, the lettering is in a serif font; on mine the lettering is sans-serif.
    Shopping tip: pull up the logo on your phone, enlarge it, and compare it to the logo on the bag. Look for the slightest discrepancies or irregularities. Word to the wise: companies don’t just up and choose Comic Sans for no good reason.

    My fake label.

    Authentic label via Vintage Dooney.
  • Check the stitching.
    The stitching should be straight and evenly spaced. Crooked or unevenly spaced stitches (or loose stitches) are signs of an imposter. The stitching on my bag compared to the authentic looks a bit amateurish and the stitches don’t form the most perfect circle.
    Shopping tip: check for stitches gone awry.
  • Look for labels.
    A lot of designer bags (especially if they’re vintage) will be made in the USA and will have a label saying so. They likely will also have serial numbers. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I actually forgot to check (I blame the euphoria that comes along with the hunt!) until I got home.
    Mine doesn’t have a label anywhere inside the bag (and it doesn’t appear that one has been cut out in any way), and according to my research, authentic Dooney & Bourke bags will have a white label with blue lettering, the words “Dooney & Bourke Inc. Made in USA” in a red box, and a serial number on the reverse of the tag.
    Vintage Coach bags, on the other hand, will have an interior leather label with a registration number, country of origin, and the Coach creed.
    Shopping tip: don’t forget to look inside the bag; use your phone to google what the interior label is supposed to look like and make sure your thrift-store find has one too.
  • Feel it.
    My authentic vintage Coach bags are made of the softest leather: they actually feel expensive to the touch. This fake D & B bag is stiff and hard; I really doubt it’s leather at all. The shoulder strap feels very thin and plastic-y; in comparison, the shoulder strap of my vintage Coach is about double the thickness and feels like butter.
    Another thing to look for is peeling: real don’t peel.
    Shopping tip: Make sure the bag feels soft and pliable. Does it feel like it’s from Nordstrom or Target? Your fingers can tell.

    Do what I didn’t do in the store and notice the peeling on the right side of the bag.
  • Examine the details.
    Expensive, designer bags will use expensive hardware. Check the clasps and buckles. On Coach and Dooney & Bourke bags, these are made of solid brass so they shouldn’t have any silver showing (otherwise they might be nickel), and they should feel weighty, not light (otherwise, they might be painted plastic). According to my research, on a D & B bag, the brass rings should actually say “solid brass” on them. Mine, sadly, have nothing to say for themselves. Check the zippers as well. Coach uses ykk zippers; D & B uses zippers that actually say Dooney & Bourke on them. My zippers: also silent.
    Shopping tip: it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that bling.
At least I have you guys!

There you have it. Some simple things you can do in right there in the thrift store so you don’t end up broken-hearted later.

Things You Can Do With a Vintage Rotary Phone:

A Round-Up of Vintage Phone DIY Projects

This post presupposes you own a vintage phone in a visually-pleasing colour and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. Bottom line: this post will be useful to virtually no one (if you did own a bubblegum pink or mint green vintage phone, I imagine you would know exactly what to do with — sit it on a side table atop a stack of books next to a vase of fresh cut flowers and call it a day). But let’s say for some mysterious reason you are swimming in candy-hued vintage phones (if you are, please tell me your secrets, or mail me some of your money — you clearly have too much). What do you do then? A phone on every side table in your house? Sure. Or one of these DIY projects below:

  1. You might turn one of those phones into a bookend, or turn two of those phones (we’re assuming you’re really flush with vintage phones here) into bookends plural, a project Erin and Stefanie of Oh So Lovely completed for A Beautiful Mess (click the link for more pictures and directions).


[Photo via A Beautiful Mess]

2. You can turn your vintage rotary phone into a succulent planter like Jenni from I Spy DIY has. This is actually crazy adorable, and I’m now on the lookout for a second rotary phone, so I can gut it and fill it with dirt (something I never thought I’d say). If you need more direction, here’s a youtube tutorial.


[Photo via I Spy DIY]

3. Or if you’re feeling really ambitious (and/or you’re a certified electrician), you could turn the rotary phone into a lamp. Your phone could both sit on your side table and actually be useful (something my vintage pieces never do). Bjorn Freed talks about the project over at Bored Panda.


[Photo via Bored Panda]

4. Apparently, you can turn an old phone into a docking station for a new phone (INCEPTION!). Again, I think you might need to be a bit more than crafty to pull this off. For those of you who aren’t Alexander Graham Bell reincarnated, you can buy one pre-made from RotaryRevival on etsy (he doesn’t currently have any listed for purchase, but it seems like he takes custom orders — let’s just hope Apple never changes the plug-in for iPhones).


[Photo via RotaryRevival’s etsy page]

Any other ideas about what you might do with old phones? (Besides just swooning over them, of course.)


A Trip to the Mid Mod Market


This past weekend was a good one: it was unseasonably warm here in Alberta (like “have a drink on a patio” warm, and I was like “fine, weather, if you absolutely insist”) and on Sunday we changed the clocks back and slept an extra hour (except not really because our dog refuses to observe Daylight Savings Time — rude). Plus, I spent the weekend in Calgary (see my last post about going back and forth from Red Deer) so I could attend the Mid Mod Market, “an event for anyone with an interest in retro, midcentury, industrial vintage and handmade goods, records, art and interior objects” (according to their facebook page, which promises to keep you posted about the next Mid Mod Market). On that note, the next event is yet to be scheduled but will probably take place about six months from now (vaguely mark your calendars!), since their website says the market is currently held twice yearly.

The event took place over two days (Friday, November 4th from 5pm-9pm, and November 5th from 10am-4pm) at the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Centre.

Time-Out: if you live in Calgary and haven’t been to the Bridgeland neighbourhood yet, or if you are planning a trip to Calgary, or if there is any chance you might find yourself in the city one day, this is my enthusiastic recommendation to spend some time in Bridgeland. It’s a neighbourhood that has seen a lot of growth and development in the last couple years, and it’s now quite the hip spot. Have breakfast at Blue Star Diner, shop at Lukes Drug Mart (the coolest pharmacy/grocery store/gift shop/coffee shop/record store/stationery store I have ever been to — I mean, also the only one, but still), stroll the Bridgeland Market (I have a real love of small, local, well-designed and well-stocked grocery stores), and have a cocktail and a cubano (and maybe get a haircut) at Cannibale.


[Photo by Erin Brooke Burns. Source]

Time-In: back to the Mid Mod Market. I loved this event for a few reasons:

1. It was free.

2. While similar to Market Collective in some ways (young, hip, local folks selling their wares to other young, hip, local folks — there were even a few overlapping vendors), it was also smaller (re: less claustrophobic and overwhelming) and a bit more curated, focusing more on the vintage and less on the handmade.

3. It was in Bridgeland and so a good excuse to spend some time in the neighbourhood (see above).

4. There were some amazing vendors selling some amazing things (more on this below).

5. It was free.

Mid Mod Market was founded by three vintage/handmade sellers: Becca Black of Bex Vintage, Janice Rusnak of fewandbetween, and Megan Borg of Secret Wool Society.

I’ve been following Bex Vintage for awhile now, since she was selling vintage by appointment only from her garage (I once bought a midcentury office chair from her from this garage), and it was through her instagram that I found out about the event.


[Photo of the chair from Bex Vintage in my office]

Now Bex Vintage has a website — and a bus!


[Photo of the Bex Vintage bus. Source]

Besides the three founders, there were ten other vendors selling at Mid Mod Market.


[List of vendors and my thumb.]

I entered via the upper level where Blackwood was selling beautifully-refinished midcentury modern furniture. Blackwood had the entire (albeit small) top floor, and it was like walking into the coolest 1960s living room. There was vinyl playing on the record player, interesting-looking people were milling about, and I half-expected someone to hand me a cocktail. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to live there — I asked.

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 9.27.41 AM.png


After seriously considering buying the green couch above, checking my bank account, and then having to overcome a moment of existential despair, I made my way downstairs and immediately came upon the goods of fewandbetween, who was selling industrial/schoolhouse vintage: an amazing metal desk, two sets of lockers, vintage maps, globes, and (drumroll please) a mint green Hermes typewriter.

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 9.32.36 AM.png


The typewriter had no visible price and I couldn’t find anyone who seemed to be working for fewandbetween, so I decided to do a lap and come back.


[Photo I took and then sent to my fiance to ask if I could please bring home another typewriter — he didn’t respond so I was left to my own devices]

It was then on to Bex Vintage and Spanky’s Corner. The former had the most wonderful teak bookshelf on display (adorned, rightly so, with a SOLD sticker) and the latter had an excellent collection of Pyrex and vintage toys. I came *thisclose* to buying a very old but still working record player from Spanky’s (a bright orange portable RCA) but couldn’t imagine a single free spot for it in my house, and it would have been such a shame not to keep it on display. If you can’t wait for the next vintage market event, you can check out Spanky’s Corner at the Inside Avenue Antique mall (booth #10).

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 10.11.40 AM.png

[Photo by Becca Black. Source]

Next, I browsed the adorable wares of Foxy Revival and settled on two wooden pineapple dishes. I’ve been meaning to have some sort of house-warming party (we moved into our place about two months ago), and now I’m thinking the party will have to be vintage-60s-tiki-themed (and I’m very okay with that).

IMG_5148 (1).jpg

[The pineapples that came home with me.]

Billie Boone Vintage also had a bunch of wooden pineapple-shaped bowls and I considered getting more so I could have a larger set (think of all the snacks!), but I had also arrived on bike and really doubted my ability to carry more than two wooden bowls and steer a bicycle.


[The pineapples that got away. Photo by me.]

As I continued through the community centre, I was lured by the terrariums at Plant and the weavings at Secret Wool Society, but I was also still thinking about the typewriter. Does it work? How much is it? Could I somehow juggle a typewriter, a brake, and two handlebars?

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 10.15.44 AM.png


So back to fewandbetween I went. This time the owner immediately came over to ask if I had any questions (a sign from the universe, perhaps?).

“How much is this typewriter?”


“Are you flexible on that price at all?”


“Alright. Sold!”

As you can see, I am an excellent negotiator.

As I was discussing with the seller where and when I could pick up the typewriter if I wasn’t able to get it home on my bike, I spotted my good friend, Jaci, and her boyfriend, Alex, who had just arrived. Did they drive here? They did. Could I put my typewriter in their car? I could. Did they want to go have a drink on Cannibale’s patio? They very much did.

Thanks, Universe (and you too, Jaci and Alex).


[Photo of my credenza, a shrine to my most favourite things.]

P.S. I am 99.999% sure I saw Janine Vangool there.

Undressing Myself (but not in the way you’re thinking): A Personal Essay


I own over 100 dresses.

That is—objectively, I think—too many dresses. Even though I wear a dress almost every day. Even though they constitute my work wardrobe. Even though I buy a lot of them used. Even though I routinely donate or consign the dresses I no longer wear.

Still. It’s a problem. And I’m trying to stop.

In July, I wrote a post in defence of things, of having things, collecting things, and buying things. Mostly, I stand by that. I love my things. They mean a lot to me. I chose each item with care, they make my house feel home-y and warm, and I’m not about to part with my knickknacks and collectibles any time soon. However, clothes are a different story.

Let’s go back.

In 2014, I moved from Calgary, Alberta, where I had been living for four years (after relocating from Windsor, Ontario), to Red Deer, Alberta. During the four years that I lived in Calgary, I had grown to love the city. It felt like home. I have many friends there, my partner was living there,  and I had developed a real sense of community. Then I left.

Red Deer is only an hour and a half drive away from Calgary, which meant that I would return to Calgary almost every weekend. I moved to Red Deer for work—to teach English at the college—and I loved my job, but the city itself, well… let’s just say two drunk girls in a bar bathroom we were not.

Because my partner and I were keeping our place in Calgary (and splitting the rent), I needed to find a relatively cheap place to live in Red Deer. Getting my own apartment seemed out of the question, so I searched Kijiji for a roommate. I thought I’d find someone close in age, who was also starting their career, and had friends in Red Deer who would eventually become my friends in Red Deer—and preferably would not kill me in my sleep.

And then I found her, the perfect roommate. She was a year older than me, worked shift-work at the hospital, and was looking to share a new and spacious condo with two bathrooms (re: my own ensuite!) near the college. Jackpot. And she really did turn out to be the perfect roommate: quiet, respectful, clean.

Except she also did not have any friends in Red Deer. She had also recently moved from Calgary. She also drove back whenever she had time off work.

You would think this story ends with my new roommate and I becoming best friends, each other’s one and only Red Deer BFF. But it didn’t work out that way.

We got along really well, would make small talk in the kitchen before work, respected each other’s space, but we stayed roommates, didn’t become friends. I blame our work schedules. She often worked afternoons, leaving for work when I was coming home from work. Sometimes, she would have a few days off during the middle of the week and would leave for Calgary. And then I’d be gone on the weekend. We also didn’t seem to have that much in common (case in point: there were no decorations in her condo, not one piece of art on the walls). But as far as the roommate relationship goes, it was perfect. She never once drank my almond milk, I never once used her dish soap. She never once left dirty dishes in the sink, I never once forgot to take my laundry out the dryer. I truly believe it was the least awkward and least stressful occurrence of two complete strangers living together in the history of the universe.

But despite the harmonious living arrangement, I was lonely. The evening void from 3pm onward could only be filled by so much marking and lesson planning, so much making dinner, and so much calling my mom. I wanted to get out, to see other human beings. But what to do by myself?

Answer: shop.

I love shopping alone. I would much rather go to the mall myself than with a shopping buddy. I like to be on my own schedule, not feel rushed, but also not take any extra time in a place I don’t want to be. So that’s what I did. Shopping. All the time. It got so that I had a schedule.

Monday: go grocery shopping, which in practice meant perusing the Joe Fresh section of Superstore—in case you aren’t familiar with this concept, let me say it plainly: our number one chain of grocery stores in Canada sells clothing. Relatively fashionable clothing (I mean, as far as grocery stores go). Also, relatively cheap clothing. Buy a new dress for teaching on Tuesday.

Tuesday: wander around Chapters (the Canadian version of a Barns & Noble). Buy a new novel, cute notebooks, cards to send friends, home goods.

Wednesday: take a trip to Winner’s and Homesense (the Canadian version of a TJMaxx and a Homegoods, respectively). Buy a new dress for teaching on Thursday. Maybe a cute candle or a throw pillow, who knows?

Thursday: take a stroll through the mall. Visit the local Gap and H&M (and Target when we still had Targets in Canada—RIP, Target). Buy a new dress for teaching on Friday.

Friday: drive back home to Calgary. Stop on the way at the giant outlet mall along the highway. Buy a new dress for teaching on Monday.

Okay. I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t this bad. Some evenings I did nothing but marathon Netflix. Sometimes I had too much marking to do to leave the house. And I didn’t really buy four new dresses a week. But still.

Obviously, I was shopping out of boredom and sadness. Not good reasons to be shopping. And I’ll let you guess how much money I saved after that first year.

Plus, I wasn’t buying things I really loved. Most of the things I was buying came from big-box stores (sadly there aren’t a lot of independently-owned clothing boutiques in Red Deer). The clothing was fast-fashion: cheap and un-ethically produced. I was just buying it because it was there and I tended to get tired of it quickly (that year I probably donated or consigned as much as I was buying).

So I am trying to do better and have set some goals for myself:

  1. Do things in Red Deer that aren’t shopping. Lately I’ve been enjoying walking my dog, riding my bike, visiting the local brewery (though, just to be clear, I’m not advising you to swap out shopping with drinking). In the winter, I’m excited to skate outdoors on the frozen pond and visit the local ski hill.
  2. If I must shop, I’m trying to do it at Value Village or the Salvation Army where I can buy used clothing.
  3. Try to build more of a community in Red Deer (I am still working on this one, but I now have a friend here, and we’re having tea next week, so that’s a start).
  4. When I do buy new clothes (because, let’s face it, this is going to happen), focus on quality over quantity. Try to buy ethically-made items. Invest in timeless pieces I’ll have for years. Avoid the siren-song of fast-fashion (the siren-song that sounds a lot like $29.99).

It’s been two months since the semester started and I’ve only purchased one dress so far. Was it ethically made? No, it was from the Gap. But I do love it and have already gotten a lot of use out of it. Baby steps, right?

Hollie Goes Lightly: My Holly Golightly Halloween Costume

My Halloween costume this year is an easy one (I’ve had – and still have – way too much marking of College English papers to do to have the time to put together anything elaborate this year).

To be honest, I don’t know that I *love* the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s (maybe I can’t get over the incredibly racist yellow-face portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi by Mickey Rooney), but I do kind of love Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. She’s interesting, charming, and, dare I say, the very first manic pixie dream girl.



Plus, I just love Audrey Hepburn.

One year, probably about a decade ago now, I dressed as Holly Golightly in the iconic black dress, sunglasses, elbow-length gloves, and pearls ensemble. Not one to repeat a costume, I decided to go a different route and do Holly Golightly in her sleeping mask and men’s shirt.




I pulled a white shirt dress from my closet, ordered a replica of the sleep mask from etsy (this shop to be exact), bought a stuffed orange cat from Toys “R” US, grabbed a martini glass from the cabinet, and called it a day.



I sent my mom a picture of my costume and she said, “Oh, I get it! You’re a martini-drinking sleep-walker!”

Sure, Mom.

Fake it ’til You Make It (or find it at a vintage store?)

This morning I made a discovery: Michaels Arts and Crafts stores are selling new typewriters. New typewriters.


[Image via Ally Dosdall: check out her blog for her review]

I was shocked at first, but I really shouldn’t be. Companies have been recreating faux-vintage items for awhile now. Just have a gander at Urban Outfitter’s “music + tech” section.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this recreated-retro trend. At first I wanted to say, “No, stop, get your hands off my typewriters!” But then I’d have to give back my un-vintage record player and my recently-made retro radio and the instax camera I bought this decade. And I’m not prepared to do that.

So, what do you guys think? Would you buy a typewriter made in the year 2016? Or do you feel loyal to the original? Is buying something that only looks vintage somehow cheating? Or is the new typewriter so cute it doesn’t matter?

While you’re thinking that over, here’s a round-up of newly-made, vintage-looking items for your consideration:

Crosley Record Players:




[Images via Urban Outfitters]

Crosley makes a wide variety of retro-looking (and more modern-looking) record players. I keep hearing their quality is not the best, and that might be true, but I have owned one for about 5 years now, and it still works great and hasn’t damaged my records. Plus, it looks adorable sitting on the credenza.

Wild & Wolf Telephone:


[Image via Yellow Octopus]

You can also purchase this phone at Mod Cloth, and while you’re there you can check out this other style. These phones make me want to call up my service provider and ask for a home phone line (or just plug it into the phone jack and talk on my cell phone while looking at it wistfully).

Marshall Speaker:


[Image via Urban Outfitters]

Oh Marshall, you so cute.

Fuji Instax:


[Image via Pinterest]

I own the Fuji instax in the larger size (I wanted actual polaroid-sized photos rather than the credit-card-sized photos these little babies spit out). But sadly, the Fuji instax wide only comes in black. Works great, looks blah.

Crosley Songbird Radio:


[Image via Amazon]

I own this little guy too, and even if its antenna did break off and even if it does require 8 batteries of 2 different sizes, it sure does look cute.


[Images via my instagram]

The Smeg Fridge:



[Images via Pinterest: 1 and 2]

Smeg also makes adorably retro blenders, toasters, mixers, and other appliances. Whenever I get around to making a wedding registry, I’m sure it will just say “one of every Smeg appliance in turquoise please,” except then no one will get me anything because even the toaster is $240.

And finally, the We R Memory Keepers Typecast Typewriter:


[Image via We R Memory Keepers]

It has mixed reviews on the Michaels website, but I think I’m coming around. If all my other typewriters are for display only, this might be one I’d actually use (she says as her “craft box” gathers dust ).

I wonder what Janine Vangool would have to say about this…

Halloween Costumes for Vintage Lovers

I love Halloween. I mean, I really love it.

When else is it acceptable to eat nothing but mini chocolate bars and “fun-sized” boxes of Smarties all day?

Plus, I love dressing up. Theme party that everyone thinks is corny? I am there in full costume. With bells on (unless the costume doesn’t call for bells–then no bells on).

I have never not dressed up for Halloween. Even if it was only to be dressed up, alone, listening to “Zombie” by The Cranberries on repeat, waiting to hand out candy to kids who would never show up (my apartment building was not the Halloween hotspot I thought it would be), surrounded by a pool of my own wrappers.

I’m not going to reveal what my costume is just yet (I’m saving that for when I have photos), but I have compiled a round-up of vintage-inspired costumes you can put together with vintage clothes you may have, or could easily find at a thrift store.

  1. Mary Poppins via Keiko Lynn.mary-poppins-and-bert-costume-keiko-lynn-and-bobby-hicks-6-1

I am kicking myself right now for selling a vintage carpet bag and donating a black bowler hat.

2. Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz via The Joy of Fashion:


A costume that involves a dog in a basket? Well, that’s objectively the best costume ever.

3. Another Dorothy via What I Wore:


Toto looks a bit different here. I can’t quite put my finger on it…

4. Marie Antoinette also from What I Wore:


This one makes a really good last minute costume (hahaha).

5. 1920s Flapper via Sarah Forshaw:



Wear a headband as a forehead-band and you’re halfway there.

6. The Golden Girls via A Beautiful Mess:


This is the vintage that is easy to find because no one else wants it.

7. Remember Rory Gilmore’s 1940s USO outfit?



8. Annie Hall via The Homesteady:


Again, I mourn for you, recently-donated black bowler hat.

Whatever you wear this Halloween, just make sure you don’t buy it at Spirit Halloween.

A Review of Janine Vangool’s The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine

image1 (2).jpg

Confession: I probably can’t be objective about this book.

Reason One: I love typewriters so much that even a bunch of badly photocopied black-and-white photographs of typewriters sloppily stapled together would probably get a positive review from me.

Reason Two: I have so much respect, admiration, and adoration for Janine Vangool (that’s a better way to say “girl crush,” right?).

Reason Three: She lives in Calgary; I also sort-of live in Calgary.

Reason Four: I’m totally judging this book by its cover and I’m already smitten (sorry, every librarian of my youth who told me not to do this).

Reason Five: I got this book on sale. My favourite bookstore in Calgary, Shelf Life Books, sold it to me for the low, low price of $27. Just having it sit on my coffee table looking pretty is worth $27.

But I’m going to put on my big girl journalist pants, put a lid on the gushing, and try my best to give this book the fair review it deserves. 


[Photo via Amazon]

Janine Vangool is the publisher, editor, and designer of the quarterly print magazine UPPERCASE, whose tagline reads, “for the creative and curious.” Vangool founded the magazine in 2009 in Calgary, Alberta after working as a freelance graphic designer and graduating from The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in 1995. (That sounded pretty objective, right?)

Now available worldwide, Uppercase Magazine is an award-winning, beautifully-designed publication, cherished by creatives looking for inspiration, information, and encouragement.



Vangool is also a diehard collector. Not only does she have about a dozen typewriters in her personal collection, but most of the typewriter ephemera, artifacts, and ribbon tins featured in the magazine are her own.

In addition to being the name of her magazine, UPPERCASE is Vangool’s publishing company on which she released The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine in 2015.


[Photo of Vangool by Kristie Tweed. Source.]

[Read an interview here with Vangool about her book on Lisa Congdon’s blog.]

In 2016, she curated The UPPERCASE Compendium of Craft and Creativity (selling feature: its dust jacket can transform into four different cover designs), and the press’s next project is The UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration. You can pre-order the first three volumes of the Encyclopedia (which UPPERCASE’s website says will be an ongoing project) here. The topics of the first three volumes are as follows: Feed Sacks: A Pattern Sourcebook, Botanica: A Fascination With All Things Floral, and Stitch-Illo: Every Stitch Tells a Story. ($120 for the first three in the set? Take my money, Vangool!)

The Typewriter: A Graphic History is a stunning hardcover coffee table book, which Vangool calls “a beautiful ode to an all-but-obsolete creative companion” in her book’s opening letter to the reader. The book boasts over 900 images, a linen-wrapped spine (inspired by a typewriter case, no less!), and a mini-book insert of a reproduction of a 1950s pamphlet targeted towards women called “How To Be a Super Secretary,” the advice of which pulls at my feminist heart more than an episode of Mad Men. Here’s an example of said advice: “You hide your light. If you originate a good idea, you give the credit to your boss because you know when he advances you advance with him.” (Of course the boss is a “he.” Of. Course.)

After the letter to the reader, this book is divided into ten sections: first a section devoted to the typewriter’s invention, and then a section devoted to each decade from 1900 to 1980. One thing I found weird, though, is that the information included in the sections did not always correspond to the decade. I swear there is no clearer way to say that, but I’ll clarify with some examples. In the section on the 1900s, for instance, there is a subsection on typing instruction that spans multiple decades (one of the instruction manuals featured is from 1961). Then in the section on the 1910s, we have information on the different fonts Royal typewriters provided in the 1930s. The 1910s chapter also includes documents relating to salesmanship from the 1950s and the World’s Fair in 1901. I think this raises the question why divide the book by decades at all? Why not divide the book by topic rather than by year?


[Photo of 60s-era advertisement from the Royal Typewriter Company reprinted in The Typerwriter]

Despite my organizational misgivings, the book achieves what it sets out to do: deliver a graphic history of the typewriter. The images document the evolution from the typewriter’s invention to its last iteration in the 1980s, while simultaneously chronicling the history of advertising and copywriting since the late 19th century (the ads are hilarious, infuriating, and graphically interesting all at once).

In case the title hasn’t fully prepared you, I will say, this book is graphic (and no, not in an “X-rated, sexy naked typists” way, but in a “mostly pictures” way). This is the work of a graphic designer and so it’s unsurprising that much of the text focuses on the design of the machines and the way they were advertised and marketed to the public (and this is not a criticism—some of the ads are as beautiful as the machines they promote).


[Photo of a 50s-era advertisement from the Royal Typewriter Company reprinted in The Typewriter]

Be warned though, there is a limited amount of written information, unless you deign to read all of the copy in the advertisements. So if you’re looking for a comprehensive, detailed, substantive written history of the typewriter, maybe this book isn’t quite your TYPE and you may want to SHIFT your sights somewhere else (although, as Vangool points out, “Telling the entire story of the typewriter in a single book is impossible”).

You might try, for instance, Tony Allan’s The Typewriter: The History, The Machines, The Writers or the soon-to-be-released Typewriter: A Celebration of the Ultimate Writing Machine by Paul Robert and Peter Weil. 

All that being said, I did learn some things:

  1. the QWERTY layout we use today was not designed for speed of typing but for even distribution of left and right hand key strokes to minimize the risk of jamming more quickly on one side than the other.
  2. When using the earliest typewriters, you couldn’t actually see what you were writing; after typing on these antique blind, or understrike machines, you had to lift the carriage manually to see what letters you had typed. (Imagine the typos!)
  3. Index Machines were a cheaper, slower version of a typewriter where instead of pressing keys, you turn a dial to the desired letter.
  4. Underwood typewriter company actually manufactured its own brand of chip-resistant nail polish, “Underwood’s Red,” and the half-moon shape of typewriter keys was to ensure fingernails did not touch the keys.
  5. I now know I want to start collecting typewriter ribbon tins.upprcasetins

I do wish, however, that a bit more care would have been taken with the text itself. It’s obviously clear that a lot of time and effort were put into the design and layout (which I can’t praise enough), but there are some glaring typos that make me think slightly less time was put into copyediting. For instance, on page 11, Vangool writes that Mark Twain typed a letter to his brother in 1974, which would have been very difficult for him to do since he died in 1910. There also seem to be errors in the captions; at times they refer to photos which aren’t there or aren’t where the captions say they are. For instance, the text on page 13 reads, “as demonstrated in the letter on the following page,” but there is no letter on the following page. And the caption on page 77 refers to a postcard on the far right which does not seem to exist (unless this is a typo and should say “the far left”). Also, a copyeditor might have caught the awkward dangling modifier on page 158: “Purchased for $10 late on afternoon at a flea market, the seller didn’t want to lug it home again.” 

Verdict: this book is for the typewriter-lover looking for an aesthetically-pleasing collection of photographs and advertisements of the beloved machine to flip through (me!) and less for the history-buff scholar looking to do research (unless, of course, that research is on typewriter advertising).

Buying All the Things in Nanton, Alberta


Nanton, Alberta: where antique stores outnumber liquor stores at a ratio of at least 2:1, where there is not one but two midcentury modern furniture shops (aptly named Nanton Midcentury 1 and Nanton Midcentury 2), where you can spend a crisp, fall day pretending you’re antiquing on the Eastern Seaboard (until you look across the highway and spot the wheat fields and grain elevators, that is).

Nanton is a convenient 40 minutes from the edge of Calgary, or about an hour from downtown. Just hop on AB 2 and head south–the highway runs right through town. I didn’t have to look up directions or consult a map once, which is my kind of road trip.

You won’t need a map when you get to town either: all the shops and restaurants are concentrated around the same block and easily walkable (we just sort of ping-ponged around ’til we felt confident we had been in every open store).

But if you don’t want to just ping-pong, then, fine, here have a map.

Start: we (we= my antique-loving, taxidermy-obsessed, also-a-Nanton-virgin friend and I) started at Because I Said So, a book and coffee shop (and, yes, there were used books; it is Nanton, home of all things used and old*, after all). Why did we start here? Two reasons: coffee and it was the first place we saw driving into town.

*not the official town slogan.

Next: Coffees in hand (and two used hardcover Twilight novels in a tote bag–they are for a friend, I swear!), we walked to Sentimental Journey at the end of the block.

You guys. This place is cray. Cray cray even. 9000 square feet of antiques, 3 floors of vintage goodness. Did you follow the link to their website? That’s okay, I never follow links either, but this time you should. It’s a beautiful website. Click the “galleries” tab and have a browse. I’ll wait.

See what I mean?

I came to Nanton with one item on my wish list and I found it at Sentimental Journey. What is it? Keep reading (or just scroll if I’m boring you)–I have photos of my purchases at the end.

Sentimental Journey: main floor, showcase of gas station ephemera

Surprisingly, I did not find one typewriter at Sentimental Journey. Is it possible I missed it? Yes. 9000 square feet. 3 floors. It’s very possible.

Break: lunchtime! The owner of Sentimental Journey recommended a few restaurants: Wild Thyme Cafe and Fieldstones. On a whim we chose Fieldstones (maybe we weren’t feeling particularly wild, I don’t know).

Fieldstones’ entrance in the alley.

Picture what you think a cafe in a small prairie town would look like. Rustic? Wood everything? Outdated?

Now picture the exact opposite of that and you have Fieldstones. It’s modern, sleek, and European. If you asked IKEA to design your whole restaurant, this is what they might come up with (that’s a compliment–I love IKEA). Plus, there’s a rooftop terrace.

The other half of the aforementioned “we” in Fieldstones.

Go here if you want a sandwich, soup, or baked good (but try Wild Thyme Cafe if you’re super hungry and want something a bit heartier).

Next: Full? Good, we have more antiquing to do! Make sure to pop into Nostalgia Antiques (a knickknack lover’s dream), Lost Ark Antiques (very reasonably priced), Antiques N’ Things, and both of the midcentury modern furniture shops (teak heaven!).

Old building, I like you.

You should also pay a visit to the thrift store, The Dressing Up Store, which appears to be the only place in town for vintage clothing. Sadly, it was closed when we were in Nanton (on a Sunday), so I cannot personally recommend it, but small town thrift stores are usually a good bet (especially if you’re suffering from antique store sticker shock).

Not tired yet? You could visit the Museum of Miniatures or take a tour of the Grain Elevators. I can’t tell you if these are any good–I was only there to find antiques.

You might also swing by The Prickly Pear Casa for cute and quirky gifts, home goods, and handmade items.

End: at the candy store, duh. Its name? The Candy Store in Nanton. Very unambiguous naming abounds in Nanton. The best part of the candy store is it sells antiques in the back (not antique candy, don’t worry), under the name Not So Fine Antiques, and they happened to be having a 50% off sale on the day we were there (lucky us!). From personal experience, I enthusiastically recommend buying a square of fudge and trying not to eat it all on your drive back.

Now onto the fun part: what I bought (besides the third and fourth books in the Twilight series for 5o cents apiece, a cappuccino, lunch at Fieldstones, and a block of fudge).

One turquoise plant stand from Sentimental Journey. This was the item on my wish list. A vintage plant stand in a fun colour with a 1960s feel. Check, check, and check. I am so happy with the one I found–and even happier with the price ($25!). Upon getting back to Calgary, I immediately drove to Plant and bought two plants and two pots. Behold:

I could have fluffed that pillow for you, but I didn’t. We’re all friends here, right?

From Lost Ark Antiques, I purchased a vintage, non-working camera, a little Tower Snappy. I’ve always wanted a turquoise one of these, but when I found a grey one for $12, I figured it was good enough (I just found a red one on etsy for $160, so I’d say I got a deal).

So snappy!

I also bought a set of vintage salt and pepper shakers ($5) for my collection from Lost Ark. My fiance says they’re creepy. I say they’re charming and kitschy. You be the judge:

Adorable or nightmare-inducing?

And finally, this poodle plant holder ($20) from Nostalgia Antiques (succulent from Plant).

unnamed (4).jpg
What a dapper little guy!

Nanton by the numbers:

Kilometres driven (Calgary to Nanton and return): 188

Time spent in Nanton: 3.5 hours

Antique stores visited: at least 6 (we lost count)

Other stores visited: maybe 4 (again with the no counting)

Vintage items purchased: 4

Money spent on vintage items: $62

Cappuccinos consumed: 1

Shameful books purchased: 2

Typewriters found: 1 actually, at Not So Fine Antiques, but it was a very ugly shade of brown and made by Sears–no thanks!

Typewriters purchased: 0

*All photos my own.

On Running a Vintage Store on etsy


I bought my first vintage dress in 2008. I was in love. The fabric! The pattern! The buttons! And it comes to my knees! (After years of shopping at H&M and Forever21, this was quite the surprise).

The love affair ended some time in 2010. It was mutual, no hard feelings. The passion had simply fizzled, and I’d left it to hang unworn, ignored, abandoned. I had many other vintage dresses now, dresses whose fabric, patterns, and buttons I liked even more. (I was very unfaithful, always on the lookout for the next best thing.)

What do you do with a vintage dress when you’ve decided it’s time to part ways? The consignment store that accepts all my impulse purchases from H&M and the Gap doesn’t take vintage. My friends are either not my size or they happily rock their own dress-free style. I could donate it and hope another vintage lover finds it at Value Village and cherishes it like I did. But oh my god, what if they put it out during the Halloween season and someone buys it as a costume?

And so I kept the dress, paralyzed by indecision. And then over the years, there were others, previously loved, now neglected, having a pity party in the dark part of my closet. I remember looking back there one day and thinking, “I have enough vintage for a teeny tiny store.”

Lightbulb! Etsy is a place for teeny tiny stores—for vintage lovers rather than Halloween dabblers.

And so in 2015, a little over a year ago, I launched my etsy store, Hooray Holiday. And this morning, I just made my 29th sale. Is that a lot of sales? No, it’s not. And I’m okay with that. My etsy store is a fun hobby, not my full-time job (I already have one of those). My philosophy: if it sells, great; if it doesn’t, great—I get to keep it a bit longer.

Screen Shot 2016-10-01 at 11.17.32 AM.png



Here are some things worth knowing if you’re interested in opening up your own teeny tiny vintage shop (or etsy store of another kind).

1. Having an etsy store doesn’t cost that much. I just paid my etsy bill for the month. It was $5.60 USD. But I made two sales this month. Usually it’s about $0.60, because I don’t sell a lot. I imagine top sellers have top bills, but then they can afford to pay those bills because they’re a top seller. The details: it costs $0.20 to post a listing and when you make a sale you are charged 3.5% of the list price. So this morning I sold a pair of vintage boots for $60: it was $0.20 to list them and $2.10 to sell them, so $2.30 USD in total (plus the cost of the actual boots, of course). But it’s obviously approximately a gazillion times cheaper than an actual brick-and-mortar store and approximately a million times cheaper than renting a booth at a market (don’t quote me on the math).

2. It’s easy. I’m adding in this point because every single time I type “etsy” into my word document, it autocorrects it to “easy.” Stop it, Microsoft Word. But it’s right though. Etsy is easy.

3. But it takes a lot of time. My usual process: find something I think is a great piece of vintage. Buy it. Research the crap out of it to make sure it’s actual vintage (etsy will not allow you to sell something that is less than 20 years old). Clean it. Take measurements of it. Take photos of it. Upload photos of it to site and write a detailed description. Price it. List it. If it sells, package it. Take it to the Post Office. I would estimate that all this takes me about 1-2 hours per piece. Sometimes, for a profit of only $10 (but I’m not in it for the money, obviously.)

4. Shipping is the worst part. I always underestimate how much it will cost to ship something because shipping in Canada is more expensive than health care in the United States (not actually true). But on your etsy store, you have to list a shipping price before you actually ship something, and I always worry that if I list the shipping price too high, an item won’t sell. So I lowball it (I like to set the shipping around $10, even though I know it’s going to be more like $15). And then I end up losing some of the profits. My $10 profit becomes $5 (this is why I teach English, not business).

5. You do need some things to run a vintage shop.

a) You need actual vintage, which means you have to know where to look and know how to date things. Luckily there are great online resources for dating vintage. Check out The Vintage Label Resource and Chronologie Vintage’s post.


b) You need a dress form/mannequin unless you’re willing to model ever single item (I’m too lazy to do my hair/makeup and I don’t have a 24” waist so I do need my dress form; her name is Vivienne if you’re wondering).

c) You need a blank white or neutral coloured wall against which to take photos, which means if you’ve covered every blank surface of your home in photos/art/shelves to hold knick-knacks like I have, things are going to be difficult and annoying for you.


d) You need a camera. A phone camera will do, but a better camera is obviously . . . better.

e) You need shipping supplies. Shipping supplies can get expensive. I like to buy bubble mailer envelopes in bulk from office supply stores. I can fit dresses, blouses, and even sweaters in the larger sized envelopes, and an envelope is much cheaper to ship than a box. Shoes/boots are a bit trickier. I save every shoebox I can get my hands on and just use these. Sure, the buyer might get their new vintage oxfords in a New Balance box for size 10 running shoes (I have big feet, okay?!), but hey, I’m recycling. Let’s call it eco-friendly shipping.

Am I an etsy expert? No. Am I even turning a profit? Only the teeniest and tiniest of one. But hey, 42 minutes ago etsy user Ashley “liked” a skirt in my shop. So that’s something.