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Boardwalk Empire: A 1930s Fashion Guide

Boardwalk Empire: A 1930s Fashion Guide

When that twang of blues chords slides into the rocking bass beats, my heart races…

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What Stilettos, ‘Hump Day’ & $20 Have in Common

What Stilettos, ‘Hump Day’ & $20 Have in Common

Navy SEAL PT Course: Day 3. It’s also known as ‘hump day’ but it is…

read more
How to Super-Charge Your Power Suit: Here’s 2 Ways

How to Super-Charge Your Power Suit: Here’s 2 Ways

In the melee of business as usual, the power suit seems ubiquitous, so how do…

read more
Goodbye, Year of the Rabbit: Hello, Year of the Dragon!

Goodbye, Year of the Rabbit: Hello, Year of the Dragon!

2011 is so last year! Now, a new set of 12 months with limitless possibilities…

read more

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Boardwalk Empire: A 1930s Fashion Guide


When that twang of blues chords slides into the rocking bass beats, my heart races every single time. The saturated spindling clouds, the steely, relentless rolling waves and the crunch of salt-saturated sand

It’s everything I ever felt growing up on the shores of the East Coast and it’s set against everything my old soul wishes it had been apart of as Nucky Thompson lumbers back to the boardwalk of Atlantic City. It’s year 1931, a turning point in history, and the series finale of Boardwalk Empire.

Set between the bookends of two loud decades — the roaring 20s and swinging 40s — the 1930s often is overlooked in its sartorial beauty. The contrast of what the country was facing — a Dust Bowl, a Great Depression, growing domestic and global political turmoil, Repeal of Prohibition — and the gorgeous lines of the fashion was deliberate.

The country’s psyche needed a boost of softness with a healthy dose of renewed resolve which was reflected in the lines of women’s garments being more feminine than ever, while menswear took on a new strong lines of masculinity.

What Men Wore in the Early 1930s

For menswear, gone were the gay, bold colors of the 1920s. Instead, the fashionable style went into deeper, more somber tones. Cuts went to broad-shoulder and double-breasted suits, away from the classic 1920s styles of slim-cut, single-breasted jackets.

But the flashy details were kept, as made popular by the gangsters who had a flair for gold buttons and cuff-links. Thus, many 1930s-double breasted suits had large buttons, none more evident than the “Broadway suit” which was the mainstream man’s comfortable answer to the flamboyant bootlegger’s style.

With 8 million Americans estimated to be unemployed by 1931, the economics shifted how the average household were sartorially outfitted.

From personalized tailoring in the 1920s, the majority of purchases became mass-manufactured garments in the 1930s. This created another impact on the decade’s fashion — the expanded importance on accessories and headwear, as well as how it was worn, to express individual style.

Men wore hat brims lower across the brow, picture the deep profile look of Dick Tracy who made his debut in 1931. It signaled he meant business and was shouldering exactly everything that was coming at him, and such was the spirit that the average man was channeling.

Under those hats, men started wearing their hair without the trendy roaring 20s Pomade, usually parted to the side, and of course in a short-clean cut. Mustaches were mostly worn at this time by older gentleman, yet, most all carried a cigarette case, wallet, a signet ring and two handkerchiefs — one as a decorative pocket square, and the other tucked in the inner suit pocket or sleeve for practical use.

How Accessories Saved the Sartorial Lady

Ladies during the 1930s unfurled accessories like none other. While customized clothing became too costly, the rise of matching sets became the substitute such as the trifecta of suede gloves, shoes and handbag.

To glamorize off-the-rack garments, ladies would wear large rings, watches set with gems or ornate filigree, and depending on budget or occasion, batik scarves or a fox fur — red or gray — swooped across one shoulder.

Coming from the lines made popular by the flapper in the 1920s, the cloche continued into the early ’30s with both large and small brims, but deep, close-fitting crowns.

Often ladies would bring a wide brim to cover one eye — an element of being flirty and sexy but strong and aloof — mirroring the tenacity of the men’s low-brow Dick Tracy look.

Later in the 1930s, women’s hats completely discarded the cloche look for more high-crown, outdoor sporty looks achieved by the Pert hat which was worn at a jaunty angle, again, with a very flirtatious spirit.

Women’s Hair & Makeup in the Early 1930s

Like the gents, women also loosen up their locks in a more natural style with a longer length, side-part and loosely-waved look. When not worn down in coiffed pin-curl wave, hair was worn up.

The entirely polished look was completed with immaculate makeup worn with thin, high-arching eye-brows, very feminine gentle lashes with soft and pouty lips.

It was an era of extremes and women have never looked more stunning.

Women’s Dresses in the Early 1930s

Designers shifted to bias-cut dresses to flatter the feminine curves of every woman in an ethereal effect. But also, it was the rise of the grown-up working woman’s suit.

The 1930s played with both these concepts in a way that was affordable for even the low-income woman hit hardest during the Great Depression.

Hollywood certainly set the tone for escapism in styles that were dream-like and filled with luxe, such as rich furs, dripping diamonds and shimmering silks. Yet, the sexy, billowing lines of these looks were emulated in the every-day-woman’s style with blouses that had a flounce-element, while even tailored skirts channeled lines to offer a whimsical and flirty flat as you walked.

What Stilettos, ‘Hump Day’ & $20 Have in Common


Navy SEAL PT Course: Day 3. It’s also known as ‘hump day’ but it is far from downhill this point onward. Out of 26 who started, 22 showed up today — not exactly a robust showing, nor is it “dropping like flies” but that might be tomorrow.

What Stilettos, ‘Hump Day’ & $20 Have in Common

But in the context of military use, “hump day” is a reference originating from World War II and the term “flying the Hump”.

For Allied pilots this meant crossing an extremely dangerous part of the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. Pilots flying the Hump faced an area 50-miles wide where climbing to altitude was highly restrictive while being laden with cargo and heavy fuel loads.

As they reached altitude, clearing the mountains’ peaks, pilots had to then stave off icing on the wings before hitting extreme turbulence from the deep gorges between north Burma and west China.

There Is No ‘I’ in Team

Instructor Jack Walston wasted no time in getting us fatigued in a hurry. At the start of a 200 meter pathway with up and down inclines, we did 10 push-ups, then sprint-ran to the end where we did 10 sit-ups, to only turn around with a sprint-run back to do the next set of push-ups.

The day moved quickly and the name of the game was teamwork, which Walston easily revealed was not happening in our group. At which point, we all suffered with any number of at-will repetitions, including eight-count body builders, chase the rabbits and squat thrusts.

Unlike yesterday, I had my gloves on and thankfully so because at one point as our column did a modified Indian Run with us on the ground doing walking push-ups, I could smell the stench of defecation and urination — animal or human, I have no idea, nor cared. The point was to keep moving, and as a unit.

With a modification, to ferret out the team’s egocentricity, Instructor Walston had a hay-day with us.From crawling along we transitioned into a traditional Indian run, where the last runner leap frogs to the front in a sprint.

Oh, I got the message, loud and clear. But I have always been a team player — in high school, I was given the team-spirit award in basketball. It’s just my nature to cheer others on, and in doing so, it’s like my own external motivation.

But as Walston railed on about our lacking observation for “a man left behind” or our society-driven mindset to “get yours and forget the others”, I was wishing my team would pull it together and be a team, mindful and aware.

I actually shocked myself at how mad I was when someone’s slip-up in front of me happened — fortunately, it went “unpunished”, yet it was a moment that gave me pause.

I realized that here I am doing this Indian run acting like I am all about team, but the real game I am playing is all about myself — caring only about what I can do to survive and perform up to par.

The proof was evident in why my teammate’s slip-up angered me: the perceived threat that it was going to cost me. Bingo! My self-centeredness was exposed.

$20 & a Pair of Stilettos

With each stride the pulse pulled stronger. I pushed to the top and stretched for about 15 seconds. I plodded down the hill only to run backwards up it again. This time was infinitely harder, but I made it. Then came the third time up and back. The fourth leg up the hill — my breaking point was near.

I don’t think that I made it up the fifth time, there was some kind of intervention on Walston’s part. I can’t remember if we did jumping jacks or were just at the top of the hill simply being partnered up by Instructor Walston for a closing run.

My partner and I walked. I drank water and we made it out of the park to find ourselves at 100th Street and Central Park West. I had 40 blocks to cover until I reached home base. Wowsers!My run was hobbled further as my right Achilles started seizing up — probably from over-compensating for my left calf.

Although I tried to conserve my liter of water, it was soon gone. I had no cash or card, and I still had 20 blocks to cover.

I asked a couple buildings’ doormen if they had a water fountain or facet I could tap. They said no. A couple of blocks later, someone came up from the subway.

We chatted as we walked together for a minute, but John regrettably had no cash either. He urged me to get water soon, he didn’t want me to pass out, and said a couple of apartment buildings were up ahead, where I had to ask them for water.

Then I reached 145-146 Central Park West, the San Remo apartment building, where doorman Robert immediately fulfilled my request.

He actually apologized that it wasn’t bottled water but at that moment, it could have been boiling water for all I cared.

However, it was fresh, cold and possibly the best water I’ve ever had. As we came down from the service floor, Robert said he was happy to help, and was concerned that I had been in danger of passing out.

I didn’t feel that bad — but then again, my looks might have been deceiving to both John and Robert. Being a fair-skinned redhead, my complexion turns ruddy quite quickly during exercise, regardless of actual exhaustion.

Nevertheless, Robert was amazing. He even offered me fresh fruit and I walked out of San Remo with a new liter of water and a fresh pomegranate bought in Long Island that morning.

Community was on my mind for the remaining blocks I ran with my full, effortless stride restored — pain still present, though it humored me that my emergency cash-on hand lesson from Pop-Pop was the same amount which could allow a wounded soldier to escape the daunting challenges of injury and recovery for an extraordinary afternoon filled with fun, friends, family and food.

How to Super-Charge Your Power Suit: Here’s 2 Ways

power suit

In the melee of business as usual, the power suit seems ubiquitous, so how do you distinguish yourself? With details. Here’s two simple style tips every man can master.

You don’t need to be my best friend to know I am in love with details, and the effect of a man smartly dressed with details just makes my heart swoon. So Gents, take it from a style expert and a romantic, this is the playbook for making a killer first impression.

For the biggest impact, my favorite go-to’s are pocket squares & socks. A pocket square as a splash of color or bold print draws the eye upward, creating a taller & more impressive look. While socks with a coordinated bright color/print gives a stylish surprise just as effective as Agent 007.

Style Secret: Match your tie to one or more of the colors in the chosen pocket square, and that’ll give you the freedom to be bold & daring with mixing & matching prints or patterns.

If you’re wearing a power suit, then you better have on some “power socks”. Dressing up a suit has never been easier than with vibrant socks, which exude confidence and creativity. End result: Your status boosted, 10-fold.

 Style Tips for the Timid: Try this — Pair your navy suit with navy-and-blue polka dot socks for that subtle-yet-modern display of style.

Be seasonal: It’s a simple way to show that you aren’t stuck in a rut, reaching for the same options each day. In other words, it shows you’re relevant in a rapidly evolving marketplace, and a man who’s able to re-invent himself.

Tired of the basic solids and traditional argyle socks? From a suit to jeans, step up your look with any of these stylish sock options.

Goodbye, Year of the Rabbit: Hello, Year of the Dragon!


2011 is so last year! Now, a new set of 12 months with limitless possibilities are here. What could this possibly mean for Thrifty Vintage Chic?

To give context to where things are heading, I love to look at what has been accomplished thus far. And, what year wouldn’t be complete without an overview and a good cheer toast to the bidding future?

From styling a thrifty living room on The Nate Berkus Show to getting dirty in the Navy SEAL PT Course, this year has been filled with beautiful opportunities, love and support. Naturally, here are a couple photos to pay tribute to 2011′s highlights.

 Being on The Nate Berkus Show

As part of Nate Berkus’ Bargain Buy Challenge, I completely thrifted and DIY’ed a living room for less than $300 and that included: 2 chairs, an accent chair, an accent table, two end tables, a book shelf, a rug, 2 curtain panels, a vintage wall clock and ALL the knick-knacks and visible decor.

 Being on The 10! Show

I had an awesome opportunity to share with the Philadelphia-area viewers of The 10! Show on NBC10 some of my DIY ideas for making over “old” clothes for a complete new wardrobe.

 Fundraising for the Troops

In June, I did a 5-day Navy SEAL PT Course with Instructor Jack Walston to raise money for wounded troops who receive training for new careers, as well as morale boosting support from Cooking with the Troops.

Styling the Goodwill DMD Fashion Show

My model Blair walks the runway, as I, in the background, talk about the edgy business style I created for her as an actress going for auditions. It was all part of an extraordinary Goodwill event I had the honor of contributing to.

With October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey teamed up with the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and five outstanding NY-based style bloggers to stage a fashion show celebrating business-casual attire and all the many different people who wear it.

What’s the Take-Away?

It’s just the beginning — literally.

2012 is a Leap Year, and it’s the Year of Dragon, which means this is a rare Olympic-like occurrence for “good fortune in the areas of health, wealth and living a long, prosperous life”.

To me, this means: reaching even further and digger deeper to see big dreams fulfilled; Carving out more time to spend with friends and family; Creating more beauty, love and style!

Most of all, thank you for following this blog, your support, friendship and love. I can’t wait to recap 2012 in what likely will be just a blink of an eye!

Here’s Looking at You, Kid!


An old soul forging a young and beautifully vibrant life moved onto her next big adventure this weekend as Diane Naegel died on Sunday morning. The news turned my stomach and ignited my spirit of Carpe Diem.

Diane Naegel and her fiance, Don Spiro.

To me, Diane is the kind of person who transcends time and circumstances. Always true to herself and endlessly gracious and beautiful with every person.

The knack of leaving a person feeling extraordinary and special is by no means an easy thing, and for Diane it was second nature — never calculated or forced. I was endlessly jealous of her ability to be so great with everyone.

To me, Diane embodies the epitome of grace, charm and ethereal beauty. At events, I would marvel at how she moved throughout the crowds, mingling with ease — paying mind to each person without rush or distraction — despite her attention being in great demand.

As the publisher of Zelda: A Magazine for the Vintage Nouveau, and producer of the monthly 1920s event, Wit’s End, Diane also worked as a designer with Osh’Kosh.

Her life being full and vibrant, she lived out her passions — not talking about them, rather building her dream as a reality.

Back in April, Diane lent some of her expertise on Rose Marie Reid swimsuits and modeled her own in Thrifty Vintage Chic Swimsuit Edition. Perhaps, you remember meeting her then?

To get a small snapshot of the incredible Diane Naegel and what she means to the community of New York vintage enthusiasts, here is a tribute video.

What’s the Take-Away

Carpe Diem & Share Your Heart Out!

On Saturday evening, I attended the monthly celebration of the great jazz age called, Wit’s End. It is an event created by Diane Naegel and photographer Don Spiro, born out of their love of the era and desire to create a place for like souls to celebrate their passions.

The evening was super special for all of us, it was the belated celebration of Diane and Don’s engagement. (The original date had been cancelled due to Hurricane Irene.)

To see two vintage lovers come together as lovers and partners in life just is a dream come true — something that again sparked my jealousy, as well as inspiration in Diane having found her soul mate.

Like a girl, I couldn’t wait to gush with her about her art deco engagement ring — a couple weeks prior at the Dances of Vice 1950s Prom, I had gotten the scoop on the ring from Don.

Heading to the event, I realized I had forgotten my favorite vintage couple’s engagement gift — and thought, “well, I can send it the old fashioned way”. Upon arriving, my excitement turned to worry when I learned the brilliant couple wasn’t present because Diane was ill and not able to make it out.

Needless to say, it was a dreadful shock to receive a phone call the next morning that Diane had just passed away.

I am still in shock. And my words are at a loss — so forget eloquence, what I am aware of is the fleeting moments of time we all have. How I take it for granted everyday — even just two years after my own serious medical challenge — that tomorrow is not promised to us … and yet, I bank on it — being able to have that conversation, to reschedule that lunch, to fulfill those plans.

Diane inspires me as she always has — living every moment with such joy and without complaint. And to truly be extraordinary in everything that I do.

Hugs & Kisses,Robin

You have my word that I will see to it that our fundraiser is realized as an incredibly successful event marked by making a real difference in the lives of women dealing with medical challenges.

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