Valentine’s Day is a decidedly handmade celebration. How can it not be when love is so personal, friendships so treasured, and the traditions of the holiday so old, that a simple love note penned from the hand seems a most apropos gesture of the heart?
At one point or another, we’ve all ventured to fashion a Valentine card. Bits of construction paper, the frill of a doily, markers, crayons…these are the things of school days’ crafting that have survived memory and time. They’re still present at the most technologically advanced of today’s grammar schools and likewise, in our habits of dashing off a love note festooned with a doodled “heart” or an “x” and an “o”…or two.
We learned early on, the gesture of a simple card is perfect, if the sentiment is true. Valentine’s Day is best celebrated when we're given the excuse to express sweet feelings in a few, well-chosen words, or with the help of a more-clever writer’s imprinted ditty or eloquent dedication.
And while there are a legions of commercially produced Valentines onto which you can add that personal flourish, something given by hand – however simple, charms the recipient. Indeed since Valentine cards predate postal service by centuries, those most traditional among us still hand deliver cards – a gift in themselves -- with envelopes unsealed, simply tucked in as etiquette dictates all hand-delivered correspondence should be.
A Peek at the Sweetest Holiday’s History
While there is little reliable information to confirm one Saint Valentine, the most common of histories describe him as a Roman priest imprisoned and killed for marrying Christian couples. That said, we have acknowledged February 14 as the feast day of “Saint Valentine” since the 1400s. This feast day has grown in fact and fable, history and tale, and has long been associated with the declaration of courtly love.
The first statements of love in honor of Saint Valentine’s Day, were said to be sung or recited and are referred to as poetical or amorous addresses. Handwritten notes emerged in the 1400s with the very first written Valentines attributed to the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415. During his time of confinement in the Tower of London, the besotted young Duke passed time writing romantic verses for his wife, far off in France. More than 60 of his heartfelt poems have survived and are preserved among the treasures of the British Museum.
So how did Valentine greetings become tradition in a time when reading and writing, paper and pens were not the things for the common man or woman? Love finds a way.
The tradition of putting forth heartfelt sentiments continued as it could among Western Europeans and by the Eighteenth Century exchanging written Valentines was in vogue among the educated and wealthy, and an emerging tradition among those with less means.
Emily Riddle LOVES vintage.
STORY: GINA YOUNG | PHOTOGRAPHY: EMILY RIDDLE
Together with her mother, Missy Schmidt, this young entrepreneur has made vintage clothing and housewares her business. Their company, Miss Molly Vintage, named after their beloved family dog, features vintage apparel and housewares, which they sell at a booth in a local store. Gina sat down with Emily to learn more about the art of vintage...and to peek inside Emily's home.
Her interest in vintage has been going strong for nearly two decades. Emily fondly recalls going to garage sales with her mother from the young age of a kindergartener and becoming completely hooked. She grew up going to thrift stores and antique stores, which really gave her an appreciation for vintage items.
According to Emily, the best places to find vintage are Estate Sales. These are the best place to find good deals for vintage clothes, accessories, home accessories, and furniture. She also recommends thrift stores, because they are cheaper than actual vintage stores.
You can find vintage items at garage sales, Goodwills, thrift stores, actual vintage stores, antique malls, antique shops, peddler’s malls. Etsy, and Ebay.
Keep some important things in mind when buying vintage. Emily suggests checking the item very thoroughly for holes or stains. They can be difficult to see while in the store, but often are more visible once you get the item home. Also, always try on the item. Even if they are marked with the size, vintage sizes tend to be MUCH smaller than modern day sizes, so always go the measurements and fit, rather than sizing. Finally, research prices for the item to keep from overpaying. Sometimes you can get a very similar item for a much better price if you do some price comparisons. Don’t let the excitement of an amazing vintage find cause you to forget these essential tips…this will prevent you from major shopper’s remorse later!
Emily’s favorite vintage find is, surprisingly, not her stunning lace wedding dress, but, rather, a kitchen appliance. She proudly tells the story of her refrigerator, bargain buy of a lifetime. While (going to garage sales with her mother), she found a young couple selling old items left at their newly purchased home. “They didn’t know what they had,” says Riddle of the pre-World War II-era fridge. It was in near-perfect condition, and the couple offered to sell it for $25. Emily accepted immediately. (She has seen a similar fridge being sold at a thrift store for $450.)
Emily has made vintage her job. She says, “I love to show people how they can actually use the items by refurbishing them to be more modern, and educating people about how they can use vintage pieces in their own homes. I give them examples by how I do displays.”
How to make a vintage outfit more modern? Emily suggests wearing more modern shoes, given the difficulty of find vintage shoes, since they tend to only be available in very small sizes. She also suggests hemming dresses and skirts to make them shorter, which makes the fit and style slightly more modern.
For more information about Miss Molly Vintage, visit her instagram: @missmollyvintage