themes with a vintage twist

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So here’s yet another one of my favorite vintage things: vintage luggage for children. I’m partial to the round hat box suitcases usually constructed from cardboard and stitching. Although they are often referred to as doll cases (I’m sure some were manufactured for that purpose), there are many more that were distinctly designed as children’s suitcases. Neevel was a popular manufacturer of these. Here’s some of my favorites I’ve spotted recently:

Design Idea: Find one of these vintage children’s suitcases and pair it with a vintage book like this one. Add a great vintage die-cast car or airplane. Find an old atlas with lots of neat illustrations to frame. Before you know it, you’re well on your way to an awesome vintage travel-themed bedroom!

Once upon a time there was a happy little color named “Pink” and it was loved and worn by all. But one day a crazy King Trendy grabbed the happy little color and told little boys they couldn’t wear “Pink” ever again. And little boys everywhere cried. They became very “Blue”…

True story – sort of.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that the stereotype “pink means girl and blue means boy” became the popular trend in Western Europe and North America. It’s never been common practice in other countries.

There seemed to have been a serious effort in the early 1900s to establish characteristic colors for girls and boys. But it took decades to develop a consensus on what those colors were. For years one camp claimed pink was the boys’ color and blue the girls’. A 1905 Times article said so, and Parents magazine was still saying it as late as 1939.

Why pink for boys? Some argued that pink was a close relative of red, which was seen as a fiery, manly color. Others traced the association of blue with girls to the frequent depiction of the Virgin Mary in blue.

An excerpt from Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918:

“There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

It’s amazing what we learn from history.

circusbear001Have you noticed how popular circus themes seem to be lately? From nurseries to birthday parties, everyone loves the circus. The Baby Gardner is jumping in on the circus act and giving it a vintage twist. We’ve added all sorts of vintage-inspired circus items in the shop. We’re also developing a brand new line of vintage circus party supplies that will include invitations, cupcake toppers, banners and more. Circus bear (right) is just a sneak peek of all the circus performers you’ll find in this new and exclusive line. UPDATE: Our vintage circus birthday party collection is here!

In the meantime, I wanted to show you some of my favorite vintage and vintage-inspired circus accessories. In the center ring…

Vintage Bozo Record Book: Frame this charming book or another circus book (look for vintage Golden Books; they have several circus titles) in a shadow box for the nursery or bedroom.circusrecordVintage Circus Crib Mobile: Handcrafted by artist, Laurie Miles, this charming crib mobile is available exclusively at The Baby Gardner.


Vintage Circus Metal Trash Can: Forget trash. Get creative and find all sorts of uses for this metal pail.


Vintage Ticket Stubs: Use these tickets to cover the edges of a mirror or photo frame creating a whimsical work of art for the nursery. Or incorporate them into the party games at his/her vintage circus birthday party.


Circus Souvenirs: Vintage circus souvenirs like buttons, pennants and programs are another great option for wall art. If you’re willing to hunt a bit, you can find some terrific examples of these vintage souvenirs.

Vintage-Inspired Circus Fabrics: Working on the nursery or bedroom and wondering about fabrics? Check out the Circus Time novelty prints with coordinating polka dots at


I can’t remember if I told you guys already or not, but the fam has been planning a trip to Disney World since January — yeh, before the whole economy scare. (Our timing is always stellar.) Anywho, we decided to stick with the plan, forget reality for a week, and head to sunny Florida. This will be Gracie and Aidan’s first time to DW. We’re really looking forward to it (minus the 10-hour road trip) and as you might expect, the kids are bouncing off the walls already. Granny & Pop are even joining us (it’s their first time too)!

So in the spirit of our upcoming adventure, I thought now was the perfect time to talk about vintage Disney! When it comes to decorating, I’m personally not a fan of the Disney Princesses, Cars, and Buzz Lightyear decor which is available in every department store from here to eternity. But believe me, I know how much the kids love them. Lightning McQueen is a member of the family. But I’d like to think that maybe there’s a way to fulfill the Disney dynasty with the kids while throwing in a bit of vintage flair that stands apart from the aisles and aisles of Disney-branded merchandise. Is it too much to hope for?

Believe it or not, yesterday was the 80th anniversary of Mickey Mouse’s debut in Steamboat Willie. (Who says my timing is bad!) Finding vintage Disney really isn’t hard. It’s incredibly popular and collectible. Prices on rare pieces can get pretty high, but there’s so much Disneyana (that’s the avid collector’s term) out there, you’re sure to find something in even the most modest price range.

I went through eBay looking for vintage pieces that I thought might inspire you. Let me take you on a little tour…

If you have an extra, say $1000 or so, you might want to check out this fabulous 1930’s Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse doll (shown above) currently up for auction on eBay. Even if you can’t swing the price (yeh, me neither), it’s still worth a peek. It’s the epitome of vintage Disney collectibles.

Another vintage Disney treasure I found was this Mickey & Minnie Vintage Pail. Wouldn’t it look great filled with vintage wooden alphabet blocks? (Stuff the bottom with newspaper first so it doesn’t take so many blocks to fill the pail.) You could use it as an adorable bookend or display it as a central focus on a wall shelf or dresser. This particular one is sold, but you can find many more like it on eBay.

Disneyana isn’t only about Mickey and Minnie though. Bambi, Snow White, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Dumbo (my personal all-time favorite) — the list goes on and on. You can find vintage versions of all of them and more. Here are two more examples of great oldies that are just itching to be rediscovered and adored…

Vintage Bambi Alarm Clock, circa 1964

Vintage Classic Dumbo Comic Book

Are you just giddy now with inspiration? Ok, well maybe that’s overstating a bit, but I hope you did enjoy the trip down memory lane. That’s truly one of the best things about Disney — the characters that we grew up with are still there among the Jasmines and Lightning McQueens our children are growing up with today. And you better believe I plan to point out every one when we get to that amazing wonderland in the sun — Walt Disney World.

I hinted in an earlier post that I was working on a new feature for the blog. Have you noticed that certain themes manage to rise above the rest and become hugely popular for baby showers, nurseries, birthday parties, etc? The cuteness factor is so big, we just naturally gravitate towards them. So I thought it might be a cool idea to take some of those themes that represent the current trends, and show ways to infuse them with a vintage flair. It’s tempting to pick a popular theme, but make it vintage and you make it truly unique!

I’ve talked about vintage sailor and nautical themes in a previous post. So how about a theme that is near and dear to my little man: Cowboys!

Planning a baby shower or birthday party theme? You’ll want to check out our Howdy Partner Invitations and Thank-You Cards at The Baby Gardner.

What about an inexpensive gift for the little cowpoke? Or maybe cowboy party favors for that big bash? Check out these coordinating Round ‘Em Up Book Plates/Name Labels. Label all his favorite books and possessions.

Looking for ideas to add a vintage flair to his cowboy nursery or bedroom? Well here’s some of my favorites…

Adding authentic vintage cowboy treasures makes a big impact in a cowboy-themed room. Look for vintage children’s books with a cowboy theme like Cowboy Dan (circa 1950). You could also hunt for vintage dress-up items for children — things like cowboy hats, pretend holsters, cowboy boots and toy sheriff’s badges were hugely popular in the 1930s and 1940s (and beyond) thanks to the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

One of my favorite treasures I’ve found is this Frozen Charlie cowboy. In case you’re not familiar with Frozen Charlotte and Charlie dolls, these vintage unjointed bisque dolls were hugely popular during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most Frozen Charlottes (girls) / Charlies (boys) ranged in height from one to four inches with ‘frozen’ arms and legs. Their relatively low price allowed children to accumulate a large collection of them. In other words, they were probably equivalent to the popularity of Littlest Pet Shop today! These little dolls are a great collectible for vintage lovers. I have a collection of Frozen Charlottes (that I dearly love) displayed in a shadow box in my daughter’s room. Warning: Collecting these are addictive!!

Fabrics can go a long way when trying to create a vintage nursery or little boy’s room. My favorite fabric combination for a vintage cowboy theme are these coordinating prints by Michael Miller:

Toss in some irresistible, vintage-inspired softies like Henry the Horse (available at The Baby Gardner) and you’ll turn his nursery/room into the best rodeo in town!

And we can’t forget about baby himself! How about these cool duds — a hand-embroidered Little Cowpoke Tee & Diaper Cover Set! The tee reads ‘Howdy Partner’ while the backside of the diaper cover reads ‘Happy Trails.’ How adorable is that?

Now get out there and wrangle up an awesome vintage cowboy theme! Yeehaw!

One of my dearest friends, Renee, is pregnant with her second child — a boy (her first). Renee’s dad and her husband’s dad are both retired Navy, so she had this great idea to decorate Baby James’ nursery in a Navy/nautical theme. Perfect, right? Well, in addition to that she really wanted a vintage flair to it which made it a definite challenge. But with all the WWII memorabilia out there, I thought, “We can do this!”

So I began hunting and hunting and hunting for vintage + nautical + baby themed items (no pressure here). A lot of what I found was either sailboats (not really Navy or sailor) or serious WWII collectibles (no babies in sight). I was getting frustrated looking at eBay and searching all the flea markets and antique shops in town. Then one night like a shining beacon (cheesy pun intended), I found this:

Now, come on. Is that perfect or what? I about (excuse my expression) peed in my pants when I saw this! This is the cover of an authentic vintage coloring book from 1943. Can you say inspiration piece? I’m framing it for her to hang in the nursery. I can’t wait to give it to her.

Of course I really couldn’t stop there. Finding the coloring book gave me the shove I needed to keep looking. So, in addition to that, I’m giving her some other vintage-inspired goodies. I won’t show them all (I went a little crazy), but here’s the highlights…

Vintage-inspired Whale Rattle: The vintage fabrics are great. And he has a little braided ‘stream’ coming out of his blow hole. Truth be told, I loved this so much, the artist is making them for the shop! Grab him up at The Baby Gardner!

Sailor Blankie: Another vintage goodie for Baby James will be a small blankie made especially for him by his Aunt Dee using this vintage-inspired sailor fabric and minky-dot backing. Pretty adorable, right?

So what do you think overall? Did I meet the vintage nautical nursery challenge?

While I’m writing about Renee and Baby James, I have to get your opinion on one other thing. Please settle a debate we’re having. Renee had asked for some help picking colors and fabrics for his nursery based on the vintage nautical theme. I sent her two groups: 1) Classic Navy & Red or 2) Nautical with a Modern Twist of Red & Green. I’m not going to tell you which she picked or which one I encouraged, but I can tell you that we didn’t agree. Both are great, but I had a definite favorite and so did she. The question is, which one would YOU choose?Renee and I are more like family than friends, so the fact that we didn’t agree on this is so typical. But I love her dearly and I cannot wait to be an aunt (again) to her precious baby boy. Maybe our saga with her ever-so-complex nursery theme will inspire you!

Nautical in general seems to be a really popular style these days. If you’re pondering that one, why not make it even more unique by infusing it with a vintage twist. It is doable!

UPDATE! Looking for unique vintage nautical items for baby? We have some great new additions in the shop, including:
On the Seashore Invitation or Birth Announcement
Personalized Nautical Soft Blocks Set with Drawstring Bag
Ahoy Sailor Toddler Set
Vintage-Inspired Wally the Whale Onesie
Little Moby Dick Baby Rattle

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