A stranger’s souvenirs | Keiko Lynn

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As much as my life has changed in the fifteen years since I started this blog, one thing remains the same: I’m just as obsessed with vintage and and thrifting as ever. Another thing that hasn’t changed: I assign meaning and memories to things that belonged to the complete strangers before me.

Estate sale shopping might by my favorite pastime of all, but if I think too much about it, I get overwhelmed with sadness. But it’s not just sadness — it’s nostalgia that doesn’t belong to me. It’s completely made up or pieced together from the items I see in the hour or so that I’m wandering through someone’s house and sorting through their possessions. Even when I get excited about some incredible piece of clothing, ephemera, or antique furniture, I have to remind myself that it comes at the expense of someone’s life — and their loved ones’ grief.

What’s worse is when there is no one left to mourn them, no one who wants to keep the family albums or heirlooms. I have a story like that for another day. But today, we celebrate the woman who left behind the most colorful existence I’ve seen in awhile.

Vintage shirt, jumpsuit, and hat. Shop some of my vintage jumpsuit picks below.

When visiting estate sales, I’m always super mindful that I’m in someone’s home, looking through their personal items. Even if they’ve passed on — maybe especially so — that needs to be handled delicately. Nothing riles me up more than when I see people digging through stuff with reckless abandon, throwing things around without any care, or making insensitive comments about someone’s home at an estate sale. Sometimes a member of the family is present, sometimes they’re not. Either way, it’s so important to remember that you’re in someone else’s home, and it’s a delicate situation. Treat everything and everyone with the utmost respect.

At this particular estate sale (not pictured — this is in my guest room), I walked away with a handful of items. The home belonged to a prolific artist whose paintings lined every wall. She made costumes, practiced photography. She had her own enlarger, and her art and sewing room was full of vintage fabric, notions, and art supplies. Two of the items I picked up (in addition to a few yards of incredible 60s and 70s fabrics) were this bolt of yellow fabric, which I used for my 100 Years of Disney project (you’ll see that soon!), and this vintage orange hat. Stuffed inside the hat was a psychedelic 60s floral smock, covered in years of paint. The top, inside of the hat has some brushstrokes in it as well. I’m no artist, so I left the smock for someone else. But the hat came home with me.

I can just imagine her putting on that same hat and smock every day, for years. I don’t know her name, and didn’t see any of her pictures, but I walked through a lifetime of her work and personal belongings and could tell that she was the kinda gal you’d want to know. She jazzed up her outfits with pins and feathers and funky hats. She either traveled the world or had loved ones who brought her souvenirs — but I have to assume the former, since so many of her paintings featured scenes from around the world. She had a pink bathroom with and engraved rose faucet and knobs, and portraits of [what I assumed was] her dog hanging in a gallery wall. I don’t know her, but I hope that her life was as colorful as the scene she left behind.

I put this bolt of fabric to good use and I’ll share that project with you this week. The hat is entering a new life in a new home, and with it, I’m replacing her “Think Kids” and “Nobody Does It Better” pins with some vintage flowers of my own. But before I do that, I wanted to honor this stranger’s memory with some photos of the hat in the state that I found it. It felt like the right thing to do.

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