Saturday, January 29, 2011

Outfit Post

Just a quick post to show what I wore last night.

Some victory rolls.

Carved yellow Bakelite earrings.

The bangles.

"Vintage" Banana Republic wool sewater that Tara gave me.
40s Gabardine skirt.
Ecco wedges.

Me and the man.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bakelite! Bakelite! Bakelite!

I had some requests to do a more thorough post about Bakelite. I tried to include everything I could think of, but I am by no means an expert. I am simply a collector and lover of Bakelite and other vintage plastics. If any of you have anything to add to this please leave me a comment.

Our favorite "plastic" came about completely by accident. In 1907 a chemist, Dr. Leo Baekeland, discovered that when he mixed carbolic acid and formaldehyde, the compound would never, ever melt. He trademarked it as 'Bakelite' and it was the first completely synthetic plastic ever produced.  Bakelite became hugely popular as "the material with 1000 uses". It was used in cars, radios, phones, toys, kitchen utensils, poker chips etc. In 1927 when the patent expired it was purchased by the Catalin Corporation. Most Bakelite collected today was made by Catalin.

Bakelite as jewelry became widely popular due to economic struggle. The Great Depression  meant that most people could not afford diamonds and jewels so Bakelite took its place. It came in a variety of colors, carvings and designs. Bangles, earrings, brooches, hat pins, belt buckles, shoe clips, etc, etc. Ironically, World War 2 brought about the end of Bakelite. The Catalin Corp quite producing it in 1942 in order to focus on the war effort. Because of this, new molded plastics emerged: Lucite, Vinyl, Acrylic and Fiberglass.

Colors and Designs
Bakelite was most widely produced in white, brown, green and red, but it came in a wide variety of colors, including pink, blue, purple, and amber. Over time some of these can oxidize and completely change color.

White becomes yellow.
Blue becomes green.
Pink becomes orange.
Violet becomes brown.

Because of this oxidization process, its really rare to find bakelite in those colors, making them more collectible (and expensive).

Prystal is a variation of Bakelite, and is completely transparent with no marbling. The most common prystal variation is amber, or applejuice as it is most commonly known. Rootbeer and tortoise pieces are marbled. Multiple colors and materials can be fused or laminated together, including rainbow and polka dots, wood and silver. Carved pieces were machined by hand and come in thousands of variations.


Most people can not tell the difference between plastic and Bakelite so it is up to you to be educated. Eventually you will be able to tell just by looking at it, for the most part, but until then you will need to know how to properly test Bakelite.

The 409 test.
Dip a Q Tip in 409 and rub it on the piece, preferably on the back or inside. You only need a tiny bit of the Bakelite. If the Q Tip turns yellow then you know it is Bakelite. Once you have tested the piece thoroughly clean off any 409 left on the piece.

The hot water test.
Put the piece under hot water and let it warm up a bit. If it is Bakelite it should smell bad, like formaldehyde. If it smells like camphor its celluloid. If it smells like burnt milk its Galalith.

The Simichrome test.
Simichrome is a chrome cleaner and you can test a piece the same way you would with 409. If the Q Tip turns yellow it is Bakelite. As with 409 please thoroughly clean the piece after testing.

The rub test.
This will probably be your most commonly used test, as I doubt most people carry 409 or Simichrome around with them. Take the piece and rub a spot with your finger, warming it up a bit. Then take a whiff. If you smell something chemical, formaldehyde, then you have Bakelite. A lot of people can not use this test however, as it really depends on your sense of smell.

The hot pin test.

When I am shopping for Bakelite I use a variety of methods to test it. I can usually tell if its Bakelite by looking at it. There will be no mold lines in the piece, as Bakelite should be seamless. I will hold the piece. It should have a bit of weight to it, unlike Lucite and modern plastics which feel hollow. I will also do the rub test. Another way to tell if its Bakelite is by the sound it makes when it hits another Bakelite piece. It should kind of 'clunk' together. Bakelite has a distinctive sound, one that most Bakelite enthusiasts will know and love.

Other Vintage Plastics

Bakelite is not the only collectible vintage plastic out there. Most collectors and vintage lovers will probably have at least a few of these pieces as well:
Lucite-This plastic comes in every color and variation imaginable, including transparent, solid, and marbled. Thermoset, moonglow, and confetti are popular styles. Purses and shoes made of lucite are very collectible. It is not as strong as Bakelite, cracking and scratching rather easily.


Celluloid-More popular during the Art Deco period, it is more brittle and thin than Bakelite. It comes in many colors but is most popular in white and pastel. It contains Camphor, hence the smell. It is also flammable.


Galalith-Also known as French Bakelite, is a non moldable plastic that contains formaldehyde and milk protein. It was used to imitate horn, ivory, and shell. It is stronger than celluloid and non flammable.


What a dirty word, right?? It doesn't have to be, of course, as long as you know what it is. You certainly wouldn't want to pay diamond prices for cubic zirconia, now would you? The truth is there are people out there looking to make a quick buck by passing off anything plastic and carved as Bakelite. Just because it kind of looks like Bakelite does not make it so. This is why it is important to test a piece before you buy it. If you are purchasing a piece online I highly recommend following these guidelines:

-Carefully look at all photos, and request more if needed.
-Check feedback or reviews for that seller.
-I would be wary of buying Bakelite from a seller in India or China (see below).
-Read the description thoroughly and ask questions if needed.
-Make sure the description does not use the term 'Bakelite Style'.
-A reputable seller will state that the piece was tested by one of the methods listed above, and that it tested positive for Bakelite.
-Make sure there is some sort of return policy in case the piece you purchase does not pass the test.

I prefer to buy my bakelite in person so that I can see and feel the piece. However, you can get great pieces off of Ebay or an online store if you follow the guidelines above.

Here are some modern 'vintage style' plastics:
Retrolite-A modern plastic made to imitate Bakelite. It is thin and usually sells for a fraction of what Bakelite would cost.
Resin-A poured plastic that looks more like lucite than Bakelite.


Now for the scariest Fakelite of them all: the kind currently being mass produced in places like India, Taiwan, and China. These things are popping up all over Ebay, and sometimes they are not cheap. This is what the item description says, complete with spelling errors:



I really don't know if what they say is true and I have no idea how they make these pieces. I have yet to see one in person but have heard that they do not look as good as they do in the photos. However, looking through the completed listings shows that people are buying these. They sell anywhere from $5 to $70, with outrageous Buy It Now prices up to $149. Their feedback is 100% so I guess as long as you know that what you are buying is not Bakelite (not in my opinion anyway) its ok. I won't be buying any of it any time soon though. I want the real thing.

This next section was added on 2/5/11. It was a comment left by a reader concerning "Asianlite". Its pretty informative so I thought I'd include it.

ILiveInMyLab wrote:

"So please don't hate me - but I own a few pieces of the Asianlite (*dodges rotten tomatoes being thrown my direction I know*). I'm still in graduate school and just wanted a few fun pieces that did not cost a fortune to wear so one day I gave in and bought a piece from them that was $10 just to see how it was in person. Since then I have purchased 5 more pieces consisting of broaches and bangles. I thought I would chime in with some thoughts on it to help keep people from accidentally buying thinking it is real Bakelite. I refuse to pay more than what is comparable to any modern bangle I'd buy at a traditional store at the mall so I've never done the "buy it now" pieces at the crazy high prices. But anyways, here are my thoughts on Asianlite from my personal experience...

They are pretty reputable, I have not had any trouble with my purchases arriving and everything that I have ordered has looked exactly as shown in the photos (*this may not be the case for everyone though*). My pieces have tested simichrome, hot water, and 409 positive (this is the first thing I did when they arrived just to see). I am not sure how "modern" of a reproduction they are due to the amount of aging on a few of the pieces. With that, I am quite curious what type of oxidizing agent they are using to faux age them (it's the scientist in me). The pieces are perfectly seamless, heavy, and even make the bakelite "clunk". The broaches metal portions even show even amounts of oxidation from aging (which makes me think it has either been in storage for a long time or evenly dipped. This is fine and dandy for me, as I am not a serious collector and just wear them because I enjoy some of the unique carving designs, but what does concern me is that I have seen quite a few Asianlite pieces end up in American based sellers shops on Etsy and Ebay listing claiming to be actual vintage bakelite with a price tag to match. One piece in particular, is now listed on Etsy for $200. If I was a collector and accidentally purchased this piece only to find out later it was Asianlite, I'd be pretty peeved. I think the best way to avoid getting scammed is to always look cautiously at the carving design style. Asianlite bangles have a very unique and specific style of carving. The designs are sometimes Asian influenced and the floral styles have a bit more of what you would expect to see with some of the celluloid floral designs. This is really the easiest way to describe it without giving you detailed photos. Hopefully this is a somewhat helpful review of the Asianlite, I just hope no one accidentally buys it thinking it is the real thing :/"

Price of Bakelite
I really don't know what to put here. Bakelite can be priced very reasonably, or extremely high. It really depends on the piece and, more importantly, how much you are willing to pay for it. The most I have paid for a piece is around $100. I personally look for deals because at the end of the day it is just plastic. It was made to be affordable, yet now it is collectible so the prices have gone up. However, I have noticed a decrease in price in the past couple years. I'm sure this will change in the near future, but while it is down I will pick up as many pieces as possible!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1930s Fashion

I went to an estate sale today and there were literally over 400 people in line. Luckily I put my name on the list yesterday and was #65. It was a mad house!! I managed to get out with a few cool things that will go into our store. We our still working on getting everything set up but I am so ready to start selling this stuff!! We have some great stuff that I think people will really like, but getting it all ready takes a lot of work!!

I have some posts I am still working on. A Bakelite post for Brook and a makeup post for Sarah. If you guys ever have any requests for me feel free to leave me a comment. I love hearing your ideas! I have more Viva posts coming too of course.

Today I'm going to share some pictures from a book I have. Ever since I got into all of this over 10 years ago I have used these books as reference and inspiration. I didn't have internet at the time so I would buy every book about vintage fashion (or just picture heavy books in general). Old magazines are a great resource as well. I taught myself how to do vintage hair using these books. Now, as we're starting our store, we use these books to reference items we have bought, or are looking to buy. They are a great help!

I got this book a while back and thought I'd share it with you. I also have the 40s and 50s ones, so I will share those later. Eventually I will have a scanner so I can post better pictures for you. This book is filled with beautiful things, so I highly recommend getting it.


Totally cute cable knit sweater!

This is around 1939. The hair and clothes are starting to look more 40's.

I would KILL for this outfit! I even have some sombrero earrings that would look perfect!

Gabardine! The nations favorite.

There are so many cute hairstyles in this book.

I need more hats...

You gotta love a buckle back jacket!

The sweaters are so cute!! I love the short sleeved ones.

Cloches in every style and color.

We have some mens sweaters like this one that will be in our store.

Even the shoes are Art Deco!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Outfit Post

Today was a casual day that we spent thrifting so I thought I'd share with you my outfit.

Me in front of the mess that is my closet.
Sweater-Buffalo Exchange
Jeans-Freddies of Pinewood
Vintage black wedges-Viva

Lazy hair. Two braids pinned up.
Bakelite Earrings-Revolver Vintage

Todays Bakelite.

Ghost of Viva Las Vegas Past: 2002

After having gone to my first Viva I was extremely excited to go to my next. I acquired a few new pieces of clothing, but I still did not have a lot of vintage. That would happen in the years to come, but in my early 20s I was broke, broke, broke!

I went to Viva with my partners in crime, Seth and Tara. However, this year I was a fifth wheel as Tara brought along her boyfriend at the time and Seth brought along his girlfriend at the time. We decided to all room together at a different hotel. It was a lot larger than the Gold Coast and I did have my own bed, but I really missed the fun of staying at the venue. Just being able to go to the room to change, drink, take a nap, and meet strange people made the wait for the elevator all worth it.

One thing that we did this year that we had not done the previous was go to the strip. Tara kept talking about the Venetian and how pretty it was so we drove over there. We wanted to eat at a pizza place there that she said was really good. I hadn't been to any casino other than the Gold Coast so I was pretty overwhelmed by the sites and sounds. We wandered around for a while, getting lost and not finding the pizza place. Finally Tara stopped and asked someone and they informed us that we were in the Paris, not the Venetian. Oops!! Somehow the huge Eiffel Tower did not tip us off. We got a good laugh at that.

Eventually we did get to the Venetian. We went on a gondola ride, ate at the infamous pizza place, and shopped at Sephora. We also rode the roller coaster at New York, New York, which practically gave me whip lash! We went to the Stratosphere to ride the Big Shot. I declined, deciding to have a drink at the bar instead. Then we ate at a 50s/Karaoke bar which was a lot of fun.

As for Viva...I was having a blast! It felt good to be back! I was dancing up a storm and meeting new people. I bought a few things. We made sure to go to the car show. There still was not a pool party yet and I would not even see the pool until years later. At Viva its very easy to never leave the hotel, which is still what I do most years. Our drink of choice was screwdrivers. I never bought a Boot, can you believe that?? I'm just not very good at carrying things around.

Some outfits.
Me, me, and Adriana.

Tara with her ex cut out.

Me and Courtney
Me and Tara at the car show.

Sunday was the Jive contest and a bunch of us had talked about entering. Seth and his girlfriend at the time were having a bit of drama so neither of them did, and Tara decided to sit it out as well. At the last second E asked me to enter and I said yes. E was pretty new to the scene in Albuquerque and hadn't been dancing very long, but he was a smooth mover even then. I did not think we had a chance at winning, but thought it would be fun to enter just the same.


The way the contest worked was anyone could enter. You just had to get out there and dance. There was a practice dance. Then a real dance where the judges went and decided who would be in the actual contest. I was happy to see that we got picked.We all danced again and then the judges decided the top 6. Then another dance to decide the top 3. E and I were still in! By this time I was totally exhausted, but we had to dance more. Finally they lined us all up and the placements were decided by audience applause. We were last in line and when I heard the applause for the couple next to me I thought for sure they had won. When our turn came however, the applause was deafening and I knew we had won. I was shocked!! It was amazing to be announced the winners! We got called to the stage and were asked our names and where we were from and we both yelled "Albuquerque"!! We had to dance one more time though, and by that time I felt like vomiting.

Me and E. Our partnership would be set in stone from that moment forward.

There is video of the jive contest somewere in E's possession. I haven't seen it in years. It was a lot of fun to win the contest and definitely a highlight of Viva. I think what made it so fun was that I never for a minute thought we would win. I remember missing his hand every time I would return spin ( I spun too fast for that fool!), so I would just keep spinning until I caught it, sometimes 3 times. When we were on stage with Miss Wolf, the contest leader, she said that she loved that about us. That we never stopped dancing, even when we missed. Now, after years of dancing together we rarely miss hands.

To end the weekend me, Tara and her BF went to a few more casinos, as we were in no hurry to get home. The funniest thing I remember was Tara stumbling into the pond in the Luxor, screaming the whole time. I will never forget that!

All in all it was a great weekend :-)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Holidays in Pictures

At the Skylark in my vintage taffeta dress I bought in Long Beach.

At Oscar's work Christmas party which featured huge margaritas, tequila shots, and Oscar's Polaroid.

Jesse and Lisa at Mikes Christmas party.

The pink cocktail dress I bought in Long Beach.

Preparing the prime rib for Christmas Eve dinner.

Pachuca posing with the tree. She got some candy cane shaped dog treats. Calvin got tuna.


Christmas day dinner at Mike and Karens.

Mike and Karen.

New Years Eve.

Our hostess Cindy. Me in my vintage 40s sweater that I love!

With Yara in her amazing vintage coat!

Oscar's kissing me, I'm kissing the camera.

New Years Day at Union Station.
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