Spotting monocles on the Internet Online: You can shop till your modem drops for vintage clothes and accessories.

September 07, 1996|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

The World Wide Web address for Plum Blossom Kimono, which sells vintage clothing, was incorrectly listed in Saturday's Today sections. The correct address is: http: //www.charm.net/kimono

In Los Angeles, Caroline Galbraith, owner of Vintage Buzz, posted an online request for monocles.

In England, Sarah McCartney, also a purveyor of vintage goods, responded electronically that she would search for monocles at the London flea market she planned to attend.

Since they met as subscribers to the vintage e-mail discussion list, Galbraith and McCartney, 6,000 miles apart, have become fast friends and business associates.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The vintage clothing and accessories market, already flourishing, getting a big boost from the Internet, a thoroughly modern medium, which allows enthusiasts around the world to share similar if obscure penchants for monocles, 19th-century bodices, Victorian day dresses and 17th-century lace. The mailing list is "a great place to find certain pieces you're looking for," Galbraith says.

"I've found this list really useful in terms of buying, selling and just helping out and being helped out in exchange," McCartney says. Through the list, she has sold vintage jewelry in California and rhinestones in Chicago. McCartney has bought Bakelite in New York and put her local vintage denim shop in touch with a Seattle dealer.

Without the Internet, "There is absolutely no way that I would be doing any of this," McCartney says -- via e-mail from England.

On the World Wide Web, sites specializing in vintage artifacts are proliferating. Vintage clothing discussion groups, such as the one Galbraith and McCartney subscribe to, as well as on-line bulletin boards, create a community for collectors, merchants, conservationists and historical re-enactors who would never meet otherwise. Within these electronic forums, subscribers talk shop, hold auctions, advertise merchandise and debate the merits of antique undergarments.

"This forum gives almost instant gratification" to questions such as, 'How to remove stains with old-fashioned recipes, so as not to damage textile fibers and dyes,' " says Rene J. Erlandson, of Urbana, Ill.

In exchanges with other list subscribers, among them professional conservationists, Peggy Ward learned how to clean old buttons and repair torn, vintage clothing. The list is also a "fantastic resource for addresses of companies specializing in vintage and reproduction clothing," says Ward, who lives in Farmville, Va.

The list also sparks spirited debates on vintage matters such as whether women should still wear corsets. "But most of us are good-natured and friendly," says Judith Burke from her home outside of Nashville.

Vintage list subscribers scan posts with quick-reference slugs like "Parasols," "Denim" or "Bloomers for Sale." Hit the "READ" key, and the entire post appears on the screen. A Nebraska correspondent seeks a vintage parasol to complete an outfit on display in her home. Another desires "non-standard denim items." The antique bloomers, according to the post, are made of black cotton fabric, have a side button closure, are in good condition and sell for $25.

Requests for the names of quality vintage stores in Quebec City, Alabama, Atlanta and other locales are frequently posted, as are responses from those familiar with the vintage scene in far-flung outposts.

Revel in technology

List participants revel in the technological capability that allows them to share hard-earned vintage knowledge.

When Jan Rosenthal sought advice on re-creating a turn-of-the century woman's bicycling costume, she received messages from as far away as Australia. The Minneapolis resident was "amazed when people not only gave suggestions for sources, but offered to photocopy and mail magazine articles and even entire chapters of 100-year-old books."

Dealers of vintage merchandise advertise specific items or lots on mailing lists. They also hold auctions. After an online auctioneer sent photos of several vintage finds to Pam George, she used the Internet to send in her winning bid of $85 for a circa 1930s Eisenberg fur cape with a satin lining and Bakelite buttons. She promptly received the cape, which was in excellent condition, as advertised.

List subscribers use their forum to announce and critique new Web sites. Customers can scan inventory in vintage Web site "stores" and purchase items by credit card. One Web site, for example, hawks dress patterns from the 1930s and '40s. Another site allows collectors to scan in photographs of their own items they would like to sell.

Susie Lipscher, a Charles Village resident who previously mailed out photo catalogs of kimonos offered through her company, Plum Blossom Kimono, created her own Web site, where Internet surfers can view the vintage and antique kimonos she sells.

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