Hello Friends!

In last week’s blog, I talked about authentic style.  I promised that I would add to that in this week’s post by talking a little bit about health and wellness.  Before my husband and I opened our store, Nostalgia, and prior to my adventures with Spirits of Fashion, I worked for a time with style and wellness.  Through my company, StyleWell, I focused on helping others to look and feel their best.  My background as a Registered Dietitian has equipped me for this challenge in so many ways.  Although I no longer work with patients, I still enjoy helping others to be the best they can be.  I became a certified Style Coach a few years ago and, although I love focusing on authentic and personal style, I believe that a big part of being stylish is feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy and fit.

I think that women over 40 are particularly vulnerable in their quest for looking and feeling great.  As we age, we run into so many physical issues that seem to prevent us from doing things we used to love to do.  This may include exercise, as some of us have a harder time putting in the effort it takes to keep up the fitness level of our youth.  For some of us, our diets change too, due to hormonal fluctuations that seem to create monstrous cravings.  You know what I mean, ladies!  But as belly fat grew and hot flashes raged, I looked for ways to battle these mysterious changes.  Along with these issues, I also noticed that I was having digestive problems and discomfort more often, especially after consuming meals that included lots of starchy foods.  Fortunately, I came across a book called “The Virgin Diet” by JJ Virgin.  This book gave me a new perspective on health and diet.  Working as a traditionally trained dietitian for so many years, what I was reading in JJ’s book was the opposite of what I used to tell patients.  Back in the ’80s and ’90s, it was all about consuming less fat and eating more carbohydrates (they formed the bottom portion of the food pyramid, after all!).  This way of eating was no longer working for me.

What I discovered in The Virgin Diet was a way to figure out which foods were the culprits in my distress.  Once I tried this elimination diet as best I could (I AM human!), I not only lost the extra weight that plagued me since the onset of menopause, but I stopped having the symptoms that went along with it.  I, like many women, thought that we were doomed to this hormonal fate, but this does not need to be the case.  The scary changes I made in my diet were well worth the effort.  Of course, the gluten-free, dairy-free path has become extremely popular in the past few years and food companies are trying to meet that consumer need.  The bottom line is, ladies, that as a friend said to me once, “We are NOT going down!!”

The Virgin Diet

What does this have to do with fashion and style?  For me, the better I feel, the better I dress and the more I care about my personal style.  I put more effort into it.  It’s as if one positive change leads to another, and that goes for diet, exercise, and adorning the self.  Speaking of exercise, think of it as an investment in health.  I don’t always feel like doing it, but I pay a price if I don’t do it.  I find that the physical benefits and the clarity of mind that come with a workout make the effort worthwhile every time.  That said, I hope I have inspired women out there and given them hope that aging doesn’t necessarily mean the end of looking and feeling fabulous!

If you need help in this venture, please contact me with diet, exercise or style questions, and I’ll be happy to assist you!

Best, Ren






Hello Dear Friends,

This week, I’ve been thinking about the transition from summer clothing to fall and winter styles.  Because Autumn has always been my favorite time of year, I’ve always looked forward to the September issues of the fashion magazines, such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle.  In addition, beautiful home decorating magazines like Victoria and Romantic Homes offer gorgeous images inside the covers of their Fall issues.  As usual, the latest fashions shown in these magazines always feature many retro styles in clothing, accessories, and home decoration.  Loving vintage fashion does not lessen my excitement in seeing these historic nods to eras like the 1940s or 1970s in current sartorial suggestions for the season.  For example, the September issue of StyleWatch had a page of menswear-inspired shoes for women, similar to this image from At Nostalgia, we often sell vintage men’s shoes to young ladies looking for the latest trend in a very affordable, very well made vintage pair.  Foot sizes for women have changed in recent years, allowing for these girls to now wear vintage men’s styles.leather oxford

Brocade is showing this Fall, and I always enjoy seeing that fashion as it harkens back to some of my favorite time periods in historic dress, such as the Renaissance and the Victorian era.  In fact, brocade and other sumptuous fabrics have become quite timeless and are seen every Autumn in some way, shape, or form, often extended to accessories like shoes and handbags.  brocade RLThis Ralph Lauren jacket, for example could be worn with almost anything vintage or current and still remain stylish and elegant for years to come.

This brings me to the theme of this post.  The wearer must not simply follow fashion, he/she must create style based upon mood, personality, preference, and self-image.  That said, I find that many people (women especially!) fear expressing themselves through their fashion choices.  Now, this is less common with younger folks, but for those of us over 40, we may feel intimidated to show any side of ourselves that may be different from what is believed to be “acceptable” in terms of style.  I will admit that, owning a store that includes vintage fashion and accessories makes it much easier to experiment with style and with different periods, but everyone can and should have fun getting dressed every day.  This is the magic of developing one’s own personal style.

How can I start, you might ask?  Take baby steps if you must, but make a change in your shopping and buying habits if you feel that you are in a “style rut.”  The following steps can help to get you started on small, but significant changes.

  1. Pick one favorite item of clothing that speaks to you on the “inside.”  Do you love the color, the cut, or is it a sentimental piece for you?
  2. Go shopping for an item that will match this favorite item, but that is different in some way from what you would normally choose.  For example, a favorite pair of jeans could be worn with a plain white tee and a “statement” jacket in a color or fabric that is new to you.  Be sure this new item “speaks to you.”
  3. Once you have discovered the magic of this new pairing, slowly add accessories, vintage or otherwise, that will express this new side of you while not taking you too far out of your comfort zone.
  4. As you feel more confident in your new choices, try shopping in stores that you don’t normally frequent.  You may go to a vintage clothing store or charity shop and discover something wonderful to add to that favorite skirt or dress that will mix things up a bit and express more of who you are NOW.
  5. Lastly, try these steps with other items that you own and see how many creative and fun outfits you can come up with.  Before you know it, your personal style will shine through and you’ll receive compliments like crazy!  Have fun!

Next week, I’d like to focus on health, fitness and style, so please stay tuned!




Hello Friends!

It’s been awhile since my last post, but we’ve been busy at Nostalgia preparing for the launch of our new website and our online store!  Yes, that’s right, we shall be ready within the coming month to surprise you with a wide variety of all things vintage and vintage-inspired.  Below is just a sampling of the merchandise that we will offer at Nostalgia Online.  Computer terminals set up in the store will be available to allow customers to shop while browsing at Nostalgia, but customers will also be able to order from the comfort of their own home.


Although in the brick & mortar store, we sell mostly authentic antique and vintage items, many customers have shown an interest in antique- and vintage-inspired pieces, which have the great look of the old, but are new items.  The good news about these wonderful gems is that they may be obtained by the click of a mouse.  For example, shortly after the arrival of 2 table and chair sets similar to the green set above, both of these sold within a few days!  Obviously, some customers do not mind if the item is a true vintage piece or not, as long as it gives them the look that they want.

Along these same lines, I can say that I feel the same way about styling my wardrobe.  Although I adore “real” antique and vintage clothing from various eras, I also enjoy mixing vintage-inspired pieces with the real thing or with basic, staple clothing items and accessories.  As an example, the image below is of me channeling a 1940s look.  None of the items are old, but all are inspired by the glamourous ’40s.  The dress was purchased from a Nostalgia vendor and is a fairly recent style designed to resemble a 1940s silhouette.  The snood is one of 4 that I ordered new from an online vendor and, lastly, the shoes are from the J Peterman catalog.  I have so much fun getting dressed in the morning, and I am very fortunate to be working in a creative fielf that allows for dressing “outside of the box!”  I encourage all of you out there to have fun with fashion and experiment like crazy.  Personal style needs to evolve, just as our personalities and lifestyles tend to evolve and change over time.  Our online store will eventually have offerings of vintage- and antique-inspired fashions and accessories to complement the home décor and other lifestyle pieces at Nostalgia Online.


When I hold my fashion era presentations at libraries, historical societies, and other venues, I often dress the part using reproduction clothing and accessories from catalogs such as Victorian Trading Company and Pyramid Collection.  These offerings allow me to feel as if I am dressed in the clothing of the era I am representing, without compromising the integrity of delicate and fragile antique pieces.  That said, I had fun putting together this outfit for my “Fashions of the Gilded Age” presentation at Warwick Public Library.


The blouse is a repro Victorian piece from Nostalgia, the skirt is only a few years old and was purchased at a boutique on Newbury St. in Boston.  The shoes are repro booties from Victorian Trading Co., and my bun is a faux ponytail wrapped and pinned.  The earrings are Victorian style, but are less than one year old.  I felt comfortable presenting in this ensemble, invoking the spirit of The Gilded Age.  Try to incorporate vintage pieces with newer items, and you will create a personal style that is authentic to YOU.  If you need help getting started, please contact me at 401-480-2903 for a consultation.  Happy Styling!



Hello Dear Friends,

This month I’m busy with many projects at our store, Nostalgia, and for my fashion events at libraries, senior centers, etc.  With the final episode of Downton Abbey approaching, I have been presenting that theme at many venues.  However, Cocktail, Culture: The Mad Men Era is still going strong, despite the fact that Mad Men ended some time ago.  I am hoping that the Downton Abbey fans continue to want to hear about the fashions of that era and to revisit the beloved characters from time-to-time.  I know that I will.

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Fashions of Downton Abbey presented at Nostalgia

Another possible fashion era that may interest PBS fans is the Civil War Era, particularly with the recent series Mercy Street, that has been following Downton Abbey on Sunday evenings.  This show is based in a Union-occupied hospital during the Civil War.  Although the show has not yet captured my enthusiasm as did Downton Abbey, I do find the fashions of this time period fascinating.  I’ve always been a Gone With the Wind fan, so those fashions have always held a special place in my heart.  I’ll be presenting “Fashions of the Civil War Era” on April 17 at Greenville Public Library.  I’m excited to see if interest in this period grows in response to the short-seasoned Mercy Street.  This Civil War era image of a woman in repro dress includes one of my favorite accessories of the era: the snood.  Interestingly, although this netted hair accessory was popular during the Civil War, it regained popularity after the 1939 release of Gone With the Wind.

Civil War dress  Thus, when I “channel the 1940s,” I love wearing a snood from my colorful collection of these repro nets.  The turban style also is very glamorous, and is popular in fashion again right now.  It’s a great way, ladies, to remedy a “bad hair day!”

I always enjoy dressing up in repro versions (or, the real thing, whenever possible, ie. The Mad Men Era), but I do not yet own a reproduction outfit from the Civil War Era.  This ensemble is on my wish list, however, for upcoming presentations.  Wish me luck, and please join us in the near future at a library near you!




Hello Friends!

This week has been a crazy, but wonderful, time for Spirits of Fashion.  With the Downton Abbey Season 6 in full swing, I have been conducting presentations on Fashions of Downton Abbey to quite a few public library audiences.  I never tire of talking about any fashion period, but the fashions of Downton Abbey are particularly popular at present, since it is this fabulous program’s final season.

That said, we must not forget some of our old favorites, such as Mad Men.  I am particularly enthralled with this era, partly due to the beautiful fashion but, also, because it reminds me of my childhood.  I remember listening to my parents and their friends as they enjoyed cocktails and laughter in our small Cape Cod-style house.  Although I was supposed to be sleeping, who could possibly doze off with all of the noise coming from the floor below?  I wanted to be part of this fascinating, glamorous social scene but, alas, I was far too young.  I think that is why, even today, I revel in the opportunity to wear clothing and accessories from the 1950s and early ’60s, especially when it involves enjoying cocktails with friends and family.  There simply was something so elegant about wearing a brocade dress, silky stockings, heels, and carrying a sparkly clutch.  Wearing vintage jewelry of the period, such as a glittery brooch, necklace, earrings, or all three just adds to the glamour of the occasion.  I know that I have better posture when wearing clothing from this period, especially when wearing a modern day version of the “girdle.”  Many of these older fabrics require foundation garments to form the desired silhouette.  Fabrics did not have the “give” that modern fabrics sometimes have, so we may need assistance in order to achieve the appropriate fit.

In a recent presentation on “Cocktail Culture: The Mad Men Era” at Tiverton Public Library, I did wear a brocade dress, a sweater, and a hat from the period.  I enjoy dressing the part for these presentations, because it helps me to connect with that time period, and the audience seems to enjoy the fashion.  However, I am well aware that most people do not wish to appear as if they are in “costume” on a daily basis.  For those of you who would love to include vintage clothing and accessories into your wardrobe, but are afraid of looking like a walking anachronism, I suggest that you start with one piece of clothing or an accessory and incorporate that piece into a modern ensemble.  For example, the cashmere sweater with fur collar that I am wearing here could be worn over a modern dress or with a t-shirt and jeans.  IMG_1568

Another option is simply to begin with a vintage accessory, such as a beautiful handbag from the 1950s, which will add glamour to any modern outfit, no matter how casual.  The best part is that no one will have the same bag, as it now is “one of a kind.”  Everyone will ask you where you got that fabulous piece!Alligator bag

All in all, it comes down to personal taste, but do experiment with fashion in a new and fun way in 2016.  It will take your personal style to a new level and may even teach you a thing or two about yourself.  Getting dressed should be fun, so plan to add a little zing to your wardrobe and reinvent yourself.  Life is too short to play it safe!

Warm regards,





For all of you who watched the first episode of Downton Abbey, Season 6, what are your thoughts so far on the fashion?  It’s 1925 in the lives of our favorite characters, so they literally are in the middle of the ‘roaring ’20s.’  Many things come to mind when the subject of 1920s fashion arises, such as “flapper,”  the “Charleston,” and the “cloche hat.”  However, as we see in Downton Abbey, fashion also depends on the personalities of the characters as well as the roles the characters play.  Is it me, or did Mrs. Hughes and Anna lighten their hair or are they, at least, wearing lighter-colored wigs?  They may not be sporting a “bob” hairdo like Lady Mary, but we see changes below stairs just the same.  And, what of the Dowager Countess?  She’s moved forward, too, although not in the same way her daughter-in-law and granddaughters have.

Jean-Patou-1925-silk-gold1925 Jean Patou dress


In terms of progress, I found it interesting that Lord Grantham asked his daughter, Lady Mary, why she would ride astride her horse vs. riding sidesaddle, when he thought the latter more elegant.  Mary replied, “…and more dangerous.”  Unfortunately, she fell off the horse anyway!  I did, however, enjoy the bright red riding jackets on the men.  Although many of us may pay more rapt attention to the clothing of the upstairs women, I do enjoy the elegance of the menswear during this period.  If only men of today would even consider dressing half as well as did the men of the 1920s.


Downton men's hunting

I do miss Lady Sybil and Cousin Rose, as I know that their fashion during this season would be intriguing to follow.  Remember Lady Sybil’s Poiret (or Poiret-inspired) ensemble from Season 1?Lady Sybil

Need I say more?  We’ll just have to stay tuned each week to be delighted with the beautiful costumes, sets, and music of Downton Abbey, because we only have 7 episodes remaining…  so SAD!!!


Hello World!

My name is Karen Antonowicz, and I’ve procrastinated long enough!  It’s time to start my adventure in blogging.  Why am I starting this blog, you might ask?  My husband, Mike and I opened an antiques and collectibles store, called Nostalgia, a little over 2 years ago.  The store is on the east side of Providence, RI and contains three floors of diverse merchandise.  This location housed the This & That Shoppe for 30 years and, although we kept the same business model, the store looks quite different now.374

Although much of  my work life is spent enjoying our store, my true purpose for starting this blog involves my passion for all things vintage, especially fashion.  I received a Masters Degree in Historic Costume & Textiles from the University of RI, then proceeded to teach at the college level for 13 years.  However, I’ve discovered that what I enjoy most is presenting fashion era lectures to audiences at our store, at


Our Mad Men themed wedding in June, 2012

libraries, senior centers, historical societies, schools, and other venues.  These presentations revolve around television shows in some instances (Downton Abbey Fashions, for example) or on a particular time period, such as The Gilded Age.  I use a slide show, video clips, and extant clothing & accessories, whenever possible.  I found that my audiences show up, because they truly are interested in the period, the fashion, etc.  Unfortunately, this often was not the case when teaching undergraduate students at the college level.  These presentations make my heart sing, not to be too corny about it!


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Fashions of Downton Abbey presented at Nostalgia

Finally, I must mention that I have a great deal of fun helping others with styling, particularly mixing vintage with newer items.  I am an accredited Style Coach with the International Association of Style Coaches, and I love to assist in coaxing out a client’s authentic style!  Thus, in addition to my Fashion Era posts, I occasionally will include posts about vintage style in dress and in life.



I welcome readers to my new blog, Spirits of Fashion, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading as much as I’ll enjoy writing.  So long for now, dear readers!