Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Down Mexico Way - Cool In My Roberta Vencillino Kaftan



Blame it on a blogger! When I commented on how fabulous Betty looked in a kaftan on a recent post about her holiday in Costa Rica she'd replied that it had been hard to find one. Although I own a few, I thought I'd have a quick browse on eBay and see if I could find any. The ones listed in the vintage section were either ludicrously over-priced or not vintage in the slightest so I had a scroll through the general listings instead.


Even by selecting UK Only it still took me an age to trawl through the fifty plus pages of listings but, Betty was right, in most cases the garments didn't remotely resemble kaftans, being either hip-length tunic tops, those polyester fringed kimono jackets which were the in-thing on the festival scene a couple of years ago or semi-sheer belted cover-ups resembling dressing gowns designed to be worn over swimwear. Anything resembling a traditional, floor length, cotton kaftan with wide sleeves was a rarity.


Then I happened upon the above photo. Although not listed as vintage it looked suspiciously like it was and the description, mentioning the panelled construction, metal zip and side pockets, suggested something a bit special. So I added it to my watch list and stalked it for days, finally submitting a bid in the dying seconds of the auction. I was thrilled to be the only bidder and to win it for £8, the starting price.


Just over an hour ago Izzy, our postman, knocked the door and handed over a heavy box with my name on it. Confused, I tore it open and there was my kaftan, neatly encased in bubble wrap along with a homemade lavender bag, weighing in at a whopping 1.5kg.


I was right. It's vintage. Roberto Vencillino was a native of Spokane in Washington State, USA. Over fifty years ago a dance class she was hoping to take in San Francisco got cancelled so she booked a trip to Mexico instead. During her travels she called in at a popular Mexican-Italian restaurant and struck up a conversation with the owner, Luis Vencillino, falling in love and marrying him shortly afterwards.


Roberta wanted her own career so she borrowed $250 from her mother, started designing clothing, hired some local women to make up her dresses and opened a store in San Blas, Mexico. There really was not much to buy here back then. My biggest seller was shift dresses. Remember them from the ‘60s? Knee-length in vibrant colours with lots of hand-embroidered flowers and birds. I sold them for $10, Roberta reminisced.



The couple moved to Mazatlán, Mexico in 1968 and opened a cottage industry shop, making the clothes in the back and selling them out front for the next twelve years. In 1980, they built a larger shop on land Luis bought “for a song” in the 1970s when the area was still a swamp. After moving premises they discontinued Roberta's designs, concentrating instead on crafts, textiles and clothing created by artisans from all over Mexico. Roberta & Luis have since retired but shop continues, run by the couple's son, Jason.
Info and photo SOURCE

A trawl of the internet while researching my kaftan threw up these Roberta Vencillino y Luis beauties - selling in excess of $200. You can tell mine was originally bought by a Brit - all that colour to choose from and they went for the black, brown and grey version!  



As well as being taken by surprise by the weight and the desirability of a Roberta Vencillino original the colour of mine shocked me, too. I didn't expect it to be grey! Hopefully I've worn it stylishly like Beate did HERE rather than indifferently, which I wrote about HERE. As the cotton is so heavy I won't be taking it to India (it's a tenth of my 15 kg internal flight allowance) but it'll be thick enough to keep me warm all winter long. 

Vintage 1960s handmade Roberta Vencillino y Luis kaftan (£8, eBay) worn with bastard massive Aztec-inspired brass earrings (originally Topshop but bought from a charity shop back in 2010 for 99p), Vintage African brass breast plate (Inherited from Mum), River Island suede ankle boots (£5, charity shop) 
In other news the For Sale board isn't up yet but the estate agent has already got viewings for The Cottage booked in. I'll keep you posted.

Bit of a dilemma tonight - Peaky Blinders is back but it clashes with The Apprentice! What do we watch and what do we save for Thursday?  I'd better have a rum and reflect.

See you soon!

66 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of Roberta. It's like wearable art! I love it!
    xox

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    1. Isn't it fab? I've never seen anything quite like it! x

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  2. That is truly magnificent and unlike anything you usually would wear. Plus very educational!

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    1. I always love stuff like this but imagine I'll look even shorter than I already am - I'm a bit daft sometimes! xxx

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  3. You certainly have an eagle eye for vintage, well spotted! It might not be the brightest, but it's still utterly fabulous. Xx

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    1. Thank you! Trawling through pages of non vintage ebay listings can be a bit tedious but it certainly pays off. xxx

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  4. When I first saw the garment, I thought, "How does she find this stuff?" But then you revealed you found it on EBay. Love the story behind the piece.

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    1. I think its harder to find reasonably priced vintage stuff on eBay than it is to find in charity shops these days. I'd stalked this dress obsessively for days, I'm glad I spotted it. xxx

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  5. How weird, I have been to Mazatlan many times(about 10) and in that store every single time, it also sells a lot of neat art from local artists. The first time I went was around 1980. It is a beautiful store. I've bought a couple of things there but the most memorable is a massive handmade metal cross about 2.5 high and 2 feet wide that my Mother managed to get home in her suitcase as she collects all kinds of crosses from all faiths. It is absolutely beautiful and hangs in her living room with a bunch of others. A very neat story and a great find!

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    1. No way! what an interesting story. The shop looks wonderful in that photo I found, I'd love to visit it.
      The thought of you and your Mum trying to pack that cross made me laugh! xxx

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    1. Tonight for me - I've had to avoid Facebook in case someone blabs! xxx

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  7. Ooh hello have I fixed my disappearing comments ? If I have I’m loving how you can wear anything and everything. The kaftan looks super on you and room for thermals underneath as well ha ha xxx

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    1. Now you see her, now you don't! Glad you're up and running again now.
      This is a bit like the dress I've been meaning to make for months! xxx

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  8. The groovy decoration on the front more than makes up for the grey. Combined with other colours in the right way it just goes to show it can work and isn't always indifferent. This from someone who bought a grey fedora at the weekend.
    It looks perfect for the chilly weather. xxx

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    1. I love all those streamers and stringy bits and so do the cats!! xxx

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  9. I'm amazed that you were able to spot that it was vintage from that photo alone. But then again, you do have the eye! And what a work of art it turned out to be. I love the decorative detail on the front. I'd never heard of Roberta Vencillino, so thanks for the education. Those pieces you found on the Internet are truly amazing. But I'm loving the colours of yours too, with just the right amount and shade of grey ;-) xxx

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    1. I'm always stalking eBay for ethnic pieces, I can spot one a mile off!
      I'd love to find a multi coloured one but I'm learning to live with the drab colours, just need loads of jewellery and red lipstick! xxx

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  10. Wow, so well spotted, and despite the dull (for you) colour palette, it looks fab! xxx

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  11. Jesus, in the space of an hour you unwrap your parcel, research it's contents, presumably model it (looking bloody amazing I might add)and write a blog post. You don't hang around do you?
    Fascinating story and fanf***intastic kaftan! The grey looks blue on my screen, love that funky design down the front.xxx

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    1. Luckily there wasn't too much information on her so it didn't take long to do my homework!
      Get searching ebay for kaftans right now - there's a few bargains out there. xxx

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  12. This dress was made for me, I want to say! :))) I just love love love the colors and design! You look absolutely FABULOUS in it, and oh so far from indifferent! Stunning!!! Love the story behind the designer's name, and she is originally from Spokane, of all places. So happy for you! <3

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    1. That's what I thought when I saw Roberta was from Spokane - that's Natalia's neck of the woods!! It's a dream to wear, it really is. xxx

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  13. Such a cool backstory for your stylish kaftan.
    My youngest has taken to wearing one I made out of a linen tablecloth with matching napkins for skeeves.
    Not quite as cool as yours. I love the way you elevated it with the cleopatra jewellery and hairstyle!
    xo Jazzy Jack

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    1. That's funny, when I was little our neighbour's son used to love his mum's kaftan, too - I'm amazed he didn't strange himself peddling his tricycle with all that fabric trailing behind him! xxx

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  14. You are such an expert at spotting vintage and quality! That is quite some kaftan. I got a couple of ebay short arse kaftan as only bidder after taking your advice! So glad, first one arrived today am now addicted. Thanks!

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    1. Hooray! It's the perfect time of year to be looking for them - everyone else is preoccupied with X@@@ and winter woolies! xxx

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  15. That's quite a bargain for such a beautiful caftan. I don't think it is drab at all, and the design is so striking it more than makes up for a lack of brightness.

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    1. I can forgive the drabness too, the style is just ace! xxx

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  16. Oh WOW! What an amazing find! You can really spot a diamond in the rough, even online.

    What an interesting story behind the piece too. Makes it so much more special to know the history of the designer behind it.

    I don't know if it is because this is such a different piece for you to wear, your accessories, hair or what but this may be one of my favourite outfits of yours. You look positively regal.

    Suzanne

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    1. Thank you, that's a huge compliment!
      I've obsessed over nomad dresses for years, never thinking they'd suit me, but having tried this one I'm in love! xxx

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  17. thanks for holding the skirt out so we can see how amazing the panels are.

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    1. Aren't they just? It reminded me of a traditional Afghan dress - not that i can afford one. xxx

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  18. Fabulous - you look amazing - that's how to wear grey and black and brown lol

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  19. Hi Vix, I never knew kaftans were hard to come by. I've recently bought a 70s pale pink kaftan with orange and green embroidery but when I got home I realised it's a bit pyjama-ish, so I'm currently wearing a fab pair of pyjamas! Haha. I think if you're going to wear brown, black and grey, it better be interesting and your kaftan certainly is. Xxx

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    1. Hi Jess - they're probably a bit easier to find in your part of the world - the vintage ones I come across here were bought abroad and not many people could afford to travel back in the 1960s and 1970s.
      Yours sounds gorgeous, what glamorous bedwear! xxx

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  20. Those colours may not be your usual choice but you look glorious in that outfit. So interesting reading all your research. Can't wait to hear,see more about the family home. I think you are so brave parting with it.

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    1. Thank, Sally! Here's me saying how horrible grey was...xxxx

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  21. Oh my thats very Margo Leadbetter era isnt it , a bit of costume history .

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    1. Isn't it? She and Yootha were my 1970s style icons. xxx

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  22. you found the holy grail of all kaftans!!!
    and you see me on my knees admiring it and your perfect styling!! pure art!
    i think the "non-colors" add to the artsy vibe - and it hast the hugest skirt of all - which is a big + in my book. fabulous fabric quality - and the sewing seems couture standard!
    xxxxx

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    1. I thought you'd approve! Grey clothing works when it's great quality I suppose! xxx

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  23. Those aren't colours I associate with you, but you still look good in them. I like the design on the front of the caftan; it'd be a bit dull without it, but the design is the shape of modernist jewellery.

    I watched Peaky Blinders - never have seen The Apprentice. PB's really quite ridiculous, but as the last series was too, and at least this time they look like moving out of the posh houses and back to Brum, I'll stick with it. Not convinced by the changes in Polly, though. Watching The X Files I was struck by how often Scully's character changed, seemingly without comment, in order to drive forward Mulder's consistent story. I hope Polly's character isn't being weakened to support the men's.

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    1. I really like them - despite my initial misgivings. It looked a lot more brown in the listing photo!
      I'm watching PB tonight and I can't wait especially as Adrien Brody's in it - dying to know if he's got a Brummie accent or if he's playing an American. I love Polly, she better not have gone all soppy! xxx

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  24. Love this so much! Really interesting to learn about the story behind it too xxx

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  25. i ADORE IT! I lOVE my Kaftan which my Mum made in the 70's. She also has a gorgeous blue one I totally want!!!x

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    1. I want to see yours and your mum's kaftans - please share! xxx

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  26. Love the dress and the story, I find your blog very entertaining and readable thank you.

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  27. The back story of the caftan's design roots is fascinating, Vix, as was your observation that -- viewing the colorful inventory in the shop -- someone preferred muted blues and browns. Perhaps like you she also had some magnificent jewelry that needed a showcase? Lucky you, discovering a caftan that will cover your winter woolies with style. Those few we find in local shoppes are usually gauzy, glitzy replicas of Liz Taylor cover-ups.

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    1. Ebay was full of those glitzy polyester kaftans - they look great on models - not so much in real life!! xxx

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  28. Despite the colour combination it is still very striking and as you say it'll keep you toasty. xx

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    1. It is a looker, isn't it? It's going to be a winter staple, not sure what the Spoons crowd will make of it! xxx

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  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. When will you take the hint? Spam gets deleted.

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  30. Fabulous! The kaftan looks wonderful on you; I do like your hair up. I think neutral colours like this are very elegant when mixed together and in a bold pattern such as this. What a very lovely item it is - and warm!The bold jewellery is fabulous with the caftan, too!

    I'd love to have seen some of those embroidered shift dresses they sound brilliant!
    xxxx

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    1. Thank, Veronica! I'm usually terrible at putting my hair up but found an easy tutorial on a blog I follow. Hopefully it'll stop me losing my rag when we're in India! xxx

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  31. woaaaa, that's a stunning piece! indeed!!, I'm in love with its designer's story, all the details about this piece are amazing!.
    You're looking particularly fabulous in this kaftán, such a magnificent shape and design!. That's my kind of kaftan! and they're really hard to find these days!
    So fabulous post!
    besos

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    1. Thanks, Monica! Love a kaftan - the bigger, the better! xx

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  32. I really like the colours of this piece of wearable art, although they are definitely not the colours we're used to seeing you wear. I love when there is a good story behind a clothing label, and it's even better when it's a very desirable piece that you've picked up for a song!

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    1. I know, they're rather drab for me but it's such a well-made piece I feel very glam in it. xxx

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    1. A vintage version of wearing PJs - super warm and very comfy! xxx

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