Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Doncaster Tanner ...... Ageless & Timeless

As I was moving my clothes into my daughter's closet, I did an extreme purge.  I made a vow to myself a few years ago to only keep in my closet what I love and what fits.  I had gotten away from that and had far too much potential clothing mixed in with the true love items.  That being said, this dress is true love.  And like real love, it just grows with time!

This is a very vintage Doncaster dress.  Doncaster is based out of Rutherfordton, NC.  The company, started in 1931, began as the Doncaster Collar and Shirt Company.   Doncaster sells it's apparel through independent consultants nationwide and a small chain of outlet stores primarily in the south.  More about the history of Doncaster here.   It grew tremendously over the years and became a luxury line that has had it's ups and downs.  At one time, ALL of the sewing was done right here in our little western North Carolina town.  This was once a booming textile community that was devastated by NAFTA and the lure of inexpensive overseas labor.  Now,  Doncaster apparel is produced out of their China factory.  And while that's disappointing to me, I still have a HUGE place in my heart for the Doncaster Tanner label.

When my mother was still alive, no visit to see her was complete without shopping the showroom.  I was always captivated by the fabrics, cuts, colors and prints.  Their pieces are completely timeless and ageless.  When my mother passed away, I inherited her Doncaster collection and they're just as wearable today as they were when she purchased them.   Over this past year of blogging, I've photographed many Doncaster items that were key parts of my outfits.  Take a look.......

This is just a boatload of FABULOUSNESS!  I purchased this satiny trench at the warehouse store and it was the last one they had.  I don't think I'll EVER give this baby up!  I plan on wearing it this winter as a dress with black hose and red or animal print flats.  

I got this jacket on one of my thrifting expeditions!  It came with a matching skirt....very Alexis Carrington    a la Dynasty!  What the picture can't show is the metallic gold thread stitched throughout.  I separated the set (I'm not one for that kind of matching) and rolled up the sleeves to keep this highfalutin blazer humble and approachable!  I plan on taking the skirt up several inches to the knee and pairing it with a white button down blouse.

This skirt belonged to my mother.  Words cannot express what a work of art it is!  It's a long lined wool very full skirt.  Originally, it had a TINY waist and I thought I would just have to relegate it to a lifetime in the back of my closet as I could NEVER get rid of it, but had no hope of wearing it.  Then, as fate would have it, I met an older woman who had worked at Doncaster years ago as a seamstress.  I asked her if there was anything  that could be done and she was able to cut a couple of inches off from the top and then replace the waistband where the skirt sufficiently widened.  May I just say, "BRILLIANT!!!!!"  Now I get to wear this amazing piece of art!  One of my favorites!

I thrifted this silk blazer at a local charity shop.  The quality is amazing and even though I know it's very old, the color remains vibrant.  I've since replaced these dated buttons and can't wait for the weather to turn a bit cooler to wear this again!

Okay, cool is this lion print blouse?!?  One of my older Doncaster items that I thrifted locally.  One of the things that roped me in, besides the neutral color scheme and eye catching print, was the quality.  Even where the blouse buttons, the fabric is lined up so that the lions are intact.  C'mon!  You know what we'd pay for that kind of quality today?

Alright, "Keep it real, Serene!" time here.  This is pretty awful!  It's so uncharacteristically Doncaster.  So why did I snag this when it was gracing the racks at a local thrift store?  I was drawn in by the sheer OUTRAGEOUS-NESS  of the design and the attention to details.  French cuffs on silk fabric?  It had me at, "Shield your eyes!!!"  I cut off about half the length of it, but to be honest, after wearing it once I just couldn't do it again.  I felt like a walking silent scream all day!

This right here is a wardrobe staple.  The long ivory wool sweater is in the thinnest weave so it's never too hot or too bulky.  This is another inherited item.  It originally came with a think matching fabric belt, but I just took that off.  There is nothing that I put this with that it doesn't improve the entire look!  

Okay.  Stop EVERYTHING!  This navajo print sweater/jacket is just the most FABULOUS thing I have in my closet.  Inherited from my mother, she wore the fool out of this.  Since it's come into my hands, I've worn the heck out of it too.  And guess what?  It just keeps getting better.  This jacket is probably at least 10 years old.  There is never a time that I wear it that I don't get at least one compliment.  Seriously, I'll have this till I die, and if I could, I'd take it with me!!

I purchased this camel toned sweater at the warehouse store a couple of years ago.  This is the softest cotton and for an oversized sweater, it just hangs beautifully.  When it's cooler, I wear this nonstop!

This skirt is a tad tight in the waist, but I just can't let it go!  It's lined silk and THE COLOR!!!  The color is just so vibrant and ripe!  This skirt will help me liven up the darker colors of fall and winter.  I may have to take it back to Miss Lucy, that amazing seamstress and see if she can buy me a little extra wiggle room in the waist.  The woman is a MIRACLE WORKER! 

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I want to point out that I'm NOT receiving any compensation for this post.  This truly is a post from the heart.  I worked for Doncaster in their Customer Service Dept a few years ago for about 3 months.  I would have stayed longer but was offered a MUCH higher paying marketing position.  The women that I worked with there were GODSENDS and I'm not exaggerating one bit.  My boss at the time, Lou Haynes, has been at Doncaster for over 40 years now!  You read that correctly....40 years.  Lou was absolutely precious to me and treated me with the tenderness of a mother.  I had just lost my own mother the year before and was going through a difficult divorce when Lou hired me.  She would hug me and being slight of build like my mom, she felt like my mother in my arms.  

I still have wonderful relationships with the women from Doncaster that I had the privilege of working with.   They were there for me when I didn't even know I needed them and now I don't know how I would have managed without them.  

Doncaster is special to me probably most of all because it reminds me of my mother because of her fondness for the clothes.  But a very close second is that I've always been in awe of the gorgeous creations! Be sure to check out their 12 page spread in this month's In Style magazine and you'll see where my enthusiasm comes from!

For more information about the Doncaster here.
To take a look at this season's line and shop the In Style magazine here.

Stay tuned for some of my favorite items from their current line.


  1. Serene, what great pieces and the shade of blue in the first one is so pretty. I have held on to things more for sentimental value...I think that is long as we don't allow it to turn us into hoaders! But, the outfits you have pictured here are worth holding onto... thanks for your sweet tweet earlier!!

  2. Being from the north, I am only vaguely familiar with doncaster. I think I had a coat once from them. Love that they still have a tight knit family in the area. too bad about the off-shore labor bur in order to stay competetive ya gutta do what ya gutta do!
    Love the pink skirt! And the black and white navajo type print jacket is sooo in this year!

  3. Pam, congratulations! I hope you can post video of your stint on the local show on your blog! I'm so with you on hoarding...that's NEVER good!

    Paula, you have to come down here and go shopping at the warehouse with me!!

  4. Awe Serene what a great post! I love me some Lou! Doncaster truely is a one of a kind company and one of the best I have ever had the privilidge of working for. :) *Hugs*

    PS I always see great Doncaster peices at Salvation Army and Yokefellow we must get together and go! :)

  5. Jess, you are ON! I just picked up a great silk bolero length jacket today at Hospice! It's FABULOUS!!!

  6. I love the wool skirt -- and that picture of you in it? with the light filtering through the trees? beautiful!

  7. Serene, each and every piece is beautiful! I especially love the full colorful skirt...I've never seen anything like it! Also that oversiszed camel colored sweater? I'm in love! You have such a great way of putting things together!
    Much love to you today!!

  8. I love you in every outfit. What a trip.
    The 80s, undercoved by the 40s are back so your clothes are so in fashion again.
    Loving the lion shirt. I am into animal and unusual types of prints

  9. Kari, thanks! That's actually my favorite pic too!

    Colleen, your poem the other day was amazing! And thanks for the sweet words. I love creating the outfits!

    Sacramento, I love a great and unusual print too! Great minds and all!

  10. Thanks for a great photo collection - this could be in a magazine, Serene, celebrating your love of Doncaster. The blue dress is so perfect!

  11. Super-fun post! I love the stories, the pictures and the thrift-shopping!

    Do you take your own photos with a timer? They're very cute ;-)

    I will definitely be back for more!

  12. Interesting history on a label/brand I had never heard of before. That plaid skirt is a stunner. Truly a beauty, and I love the ingenuity of having the seamstress add a new waistband.

  13. This is a wonderful post - I've never heard of this brand, but this was just lovely to read. I especially love that lion print blouse - that's awesome!

  14. The first blue dress is so pretty. I love the design on the bodice. My favorite thing is the gold blazer. Wow, how pretty it is!

  15. So, is the Doncaster warehouse store in your area still open? And how many more pieces of your mothers do you still have that could be remade?

  16. Thank you so much for sharing the magic of Doncaster here - I'm afraid the patchwork top/dress that you cannot bear wearing again is something that is screaming "pick me, pick me"!! I'm sure it will go to a very good home one day, it's so beautiful and so are you my dear. I LOVE the first blue dress on you and it has pockets - yaaaaaayyy!! xoxoxoxoxo

  17. Terri, yes...the warehouse and corporate office for Doncaster are still here. I donate a lot of my mothers clothes that were WAY too small for me before I met the seamstress I mentioned. Oh well, at least I have what I have!

    Desiree, if I have not donated this dress yet (the loud one) I will send it to you! It would be my pleasure!

  18. What a great brand - never had a chance to see their clothes, but I love pieces that you own)))
    I think I'm in love with your blue dress - such a pretty color and a great white detailing <3

  19. PRETTY blue dress. I love the design at the top.

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Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! ~Serene