Decorate for the holidays with a vintage twist
Monday, December 3, 2007
Santa’s droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as snow.
But his suit was pink.
“Pink was very popular in the 1950s and ‘60s,” explains Joyce Gilpin, an antique dealer at Jesse James Antique Mall in St. Joseph. She is talking about a vintage Santa doll on display wearing a pink velvet suit with white fur trim and white boots. He certainly stands out among the traditional red versions. Even his jolly St. Nicholas face is painted pink.
Ms. Gilpin says during the holidays in the ‘50s and ‘60s, pink Christmas trees made of feathers or aluminum were also a trendy alternative to the traditional green.
Flash forward to 2007 and, like everything else, the look is back —with a twist. It’s paired with silver, tarnished or not, and blended with old and new. So if the traditional green and red has lost its spark for you this season, start dreaming of a vintage pink Christmas. Here’s how:
Start with a silver or pink aluminum tree. They provide glitter and shine like nothing else can. Each needle is a mirror like strip of aluminum foil. The strips catch the tiniest gleam of color and light.
“Aluminum trees were popular from about 1959 to 1970, with greatest sales between 1960 to 1963,” says Charlie Essmeier, with aluminumChristmastrees.net. “Everyone wants them now, but 40 years ago, you couldn’t give them away.”
Pink particularly is in demand, he says.
“Collectors should be prepared to spend between $50 and $300 for every foot of height if looking for a pink tree. They tend to sell for 5 to 10 times the price of a comparable silver tree, around $100 for a 4- or 5-foot tree.”
Or go softer.
“Pink feather trees were also popular,“ says Linda Harris, an antique dealer at the Jesse James Antique Mall. They are usually smaller, designed for table tops.
Or go new. A white tree makes a pretty background for vintage pink ornaments. But if it’s pink, the search may still take some time.
“When I was in Wal-Mart,” Ms. Harris says, “they said they couldn’t keep them in.”
The shimmery tree doesn’t need much to enhance the look. Vintage pink or silver glass balls may be all you need. They are fairly easy to find and not that expensive. At the Jesse James Antique Mall, we found a dozen glass pink balls for $12. They were made in America, which also is rare now. The original price tag shows they were sold at Gimbels for $1.49.
“Be careful not to handle them too much,” Ms. Gilpin says. “I usually wrap tissue paper around mine.”
The 1959 decorating guide for aluminum trees by Aluminum Corporation of America suggests hanging the ornaments with wide hooks so that they will not distort the tree’s foil needles. Then use one or two spotlights for a “dazzling” effect. Just don’t add electric lights.
“The branches are electrically conductive, so it’s a serious shock hazard,” Mr. Essmeier says. “For that, you need an external light source, such as a color wheel.” More tips are available on
Once you get into pink mode, it’s amazing how much you can find to decorate the table, from pink Santas to Josef dolls. Josef dolls were a popular gift for Christmas and birthdays during the 1950s, Ms. Gilpin says. The figurines were designed by artist Muriel Joseph George, who created them in 1945. They look like angels, and, of course, some are pink. To display your vintage finds, Ms. Gilpin likes to use silver trays. There are plenty around. Back in the 1960s, she says, everyone got silver as a wedding present, sometimes with coffee and tea sets. They usually just packed them away, she says, because they need polishing. For Christmas 2007, silver or silver plate is fine to use, she says, but don’t polish.
“Now the trend is not to polish,” Ms. Gilpin says. “They are even recreating old silver pieces with the tarnished look.”
Or display your pink passion with tablescapes. Dawn Mohrmann, with Hydrangea Home, a boutique on MakeMinePink.com, likes to create tablespaces for buffet entertaining. These ideas also can be used on a smaller scale, such as just for desserts or appetizers. Try one in shades of white, pink and silver for added sparkle. To create different levels on your table, hide some hatboxes under your second layer of fabric. Use all white serving platters and dishes as well as clear glass cake stands for added height. After all the serving pieces are arranged, start filling in with accessories.
The main thing is to have fun with it, Ms. Mohrmann says, “be creative and your guests will love it!”