As most of you already know, Carol is the brains behind the Vintage Bulletin blog and is our gracious virtual vintage hostess here.
I first met Carol years ago on eBay, as a customer, and soon signed up for her weekly newsletters for her web site, DandelionVintage.com. Her newsletters have come faithfully every Monday for all of these years. It not only lets you know about the newest vintage goodies on her site, but also tell fun snippets of whatever is going on in her world at the moment. For instance, I remember when she first got her bulldog, Boris, and read all about his puppy exploits.
I thought it'd be fun for readers of the Vintage Bulletin to get to know her better, and fun for me as well.
Joan: Carol, as I recall, you were one of the first vintage dealers to set up shop on the web with a stand-alone web site. What year did you open your virtual doors, and what major differences do you note from then as opposed to 2008?
Carol: I started out in mid-1997 with a site selling my crafts. Then I added a page to the site with of some of my own vintage clothing for sale. The first page had about 10 items, and there probably wasn't anything over $20. For some reason I just started focusing on that rather than the crafts, and just kept adding more of the vintage that I had collected and hoarded for years. Dandelion Vintage kind of became official in December of 1997.
There weren't many vintage clothing sites around at that time, that made it hard because shoppers weren't necessarily looking for vintage clothing online. It wasn't until I started also selling on eBay in March of 1998 that sales started to pick up, and vintage shopping began to grow online. The first item that I sold on my website was a pair of 1960s Faux Leopard Fur pants. The first item sold on eBay was a 1950s midnight blue velvet coat. Both items had once been mine, although I never actually wore the leopard pants! I sold on both my website and eBay for about 8 years. Then I stopped selling vintage on eBay 2 years ago, because of the changes that were starting there at that time. I didn't see a long-lasting future for me selling vintage on eBay, so I stopped selling there and put the whole focus on selling at my website. I worked in retail for 10 years and I think that experience was a big help in making my vintage business successful.
The online vintage market now is hard again because there are so many vintage sellers out there, and new ones are starting everyday. I just stay focused on what I know my customers want. I'm kinda 'old school vintage' and I don't follow trends or current styles. I stick to the classics.
Joan: I've always wondered how you got into vintage (and when) and how you decided on Dandelion Vintage as your name. Dandelions are such cute, cheerful things, it's a very appealing name to me.
Carol: I grew up around collectibles and antiques. My parents bought and sold antiques since I was very small. They started out collecting bottles here in South Jersey. I can remember going on bottle digs on old farms. Before there was trash pick-up, people buried their trash out on their farms including bottles, cans etc. So my parents would go out to old farms and dig for old bottles. My father collected soda bottles (not Coke and Pepsi, the old 1800s soda bottles) my mother collected ink bottles and they started a collection of baby bottles for me (the old flat oval type of baby bottles, not the type most people are familiar with).
My parents were always dragging me along to auctions, flea markets and bottle shows in the NJ, PA, NY area and sometimes beyond. Reningers, Englishtown, Shupp's Grove etc. were places we went to nearly every weekend. When they set up to sell, I would play under the table with my toys.
Of course when I was a teenager that all became very 'uncool.' But in my later teens I became interested in thrift shops and started buying vintage clothing to escape the Jordache jeans and Flash dance sweatshirt crazes of that time. I used to buy whatever vintage clothing I saw that was cool and cheap. Even if I didn't wear it, I just hung it in my closet. My parents lost interest in bottles and started collecting other things, only selling a few times a year. Now my dad only sell once a year at the Hershey Car show, he's retired and he collects Ford car stuff now. My mom collects dolls, Victorian clothing, beaded purses and baby clothing.
Dandelion Vintage, should I tell this story and reveal what a fan-dork I am? Before vintage, before crafts, in the late 1980s I made clothing. Mostly cotton-lycra club clothing. I've never been in a nightclub, I'm not that great of a sewer, but I had wild ideas for club-style-clothing and started this little business and called it 'Dandelion Green'. I was, and still am a huge U2 fan, I think I have mellowed over the years though, I'm not as fanatical as I used to be. I was in my early 20s then, and U2 were starting to be really big. I had liked them for several years by then and I read about their history in several books. The first shows they played were at this farmer's market in Dublin called the 'Dandelion Market' and I've seen it referred to as the 'Dandelion Green' too. I liked the name, and used it as my clothing name. I used it for the craft business too and then it just became Dandelion Vintage when the vintage started. Sometimes I wish I had gone with something different, but I own it now, literally. So it's here to stay!
Joan: What pieces in your own wardrobe are your favorites? The ones you would absolutely never ever part with, not even if Tim Gunne asked you to.
Carol: Probably my day dresses and sweaters. I'm already missing Summer because I can't wear most of my Day dresses. I have this thing where I don't like to wear 'nude' color stockings, I only wear black stockings and alot of my Summer dresses don't look right with black stockings. I love my sweaters during the cold weather. Tim Gunn wouldn't like anything in my wardrobe because I don't follow any current trends and I'm pretty anti-label in my own wardrobe, even with new clothing.
I used to collect silk and rayon pajamas, robes and loungewear from the 1920-30s, and I still have several pieces from the collection that I'll probably never part with. Here's one piece -
Joan: This is probably a tough question to answer, but of the many vintage goodies on your site, which are your top 5 personal favorites, and why?
#FAB17- Dusty Peach floral Crepe Gown & cape -
I love this gown and cape. It came from the estate of Jessie Laurent Harper who was a milliner in Harlem. This was one of the older pieces in the group and one of the last pieces that I have from her. I love the style and the fabric is very cool.
#30-67- Black silk robe with gold cord dragons -
This was the type of robes that I used to collect so I really like it.
#BL-437- Maurice Rentner Wide sleeved dress -
Awesome rayon dress that has great style.
#V-671- Red Nylon Plisse Sundress and Jacket Set -
I love the 1940s and I love these Sun dresses with fitted jackets. I'd wear them all the time if I could find enough of them in my size.
#L-171- Peachy Coral Sheer over Pale Pink Nylon Nightgown -
I also love the 2 black rayon chiffon gowns on this page, but I chose the peachy nylon nightgown as my favorite-favorite because I love the color combo of the sheer coral over pale pink. So pretty and feminine.
Joan: I mentioned your bulldog, Boris, in the intro. A recent addition to your family is the rapidly growing and adorable puppy Harlow, and I know you had another bulldog, Miss Fatty. Obviously bulldogs are your favorite breed. What is it about them that has captured your heart?
Carol: Both my dad and I had always liked English Bulldogs. Previously we had Bassetts, and then Newfoundlands. Bulldogs are just so funny and have great personalities. I was a kid when we had the other dogs so I don't think I paid as much attention to them as I have with the bulldogs. Bulldogs refuse to be ignored!
Joan: Some people may not be aware that you're something of a local historian, specifically about Strathmere, a charming small town on a little island just off of the Jersey Shore. Local history is a passion of mine, too, and I became fascinated with Strathmere and its history through you. How did you become so interested in the history of Strathmere?
Carol: Strathmere is just this cool, old fashioned seashore town. So many towns at the Jersey Shore have been built up, modernized, overdeveloped. But Strathmere is fighting against that, trying to stay a quiet, small, private town. It's very small, has some beautiful old homes and it just has this magical power over people who spend time there. You never want to leave and people that you talk to feel the same way about it. I started a website about Strathmere about 6 years ago with the items that we and friends who lived there had collected. From there, people began to share stories and photos with me and the website just grew. A labor of love sounds corny, but that's really what it is. Over the past few years I've come to love the town even more, because of learning things and meeting people through my website and because we live closer to it now and I can go there anytime I want.
Here's a link to Carol's Strathmere web site, with an extensive history. It's a fascinating read for any history buff, so be sure to have a nice cup of coffee or tea and the time to settle back for a long and interesting read.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us, Carol!