My love of vintage fashion stems from my inability to get rid of clothes, which is why I still have an eighties closet. I suppose you could blame it on not having many clothes during my formative years. We had to wear ugly nun-like navy blue uniforms in high school and for a young girl who poured over the pages of the few Seventeen magazines I owned like they were the Bible, I think it must have somehow damaged my psyche. My entire wardrobe fit into half a small clothing rack in the upstairs bedroom I shared with my sister, and a few dresser drawers. Oh, we went shopping with my mother, but mostly we looked. When I was a poor university student who lived in jeans and polyester shirts, my dorm closet was the size of a phone booth and still held my entire wardrobe. It was only in the eighties when I started working that I had any money to spend on clothes, and graduated to multiple wall length closets, separated by season. It’s not that I think the 80’s was a great decade for clothes, all those big shoulder pads and billowy sleeves…. the reason I can’t part with the stuff is the fabric – the fabrics were so beautiful, and the clothes seemed to be better made than what is available today in our throw away society – i.e. if you haven’t worn it in a year throw it out. All those beautiful velvet dresses, because yes people actually dressed up for New Years Eve (think of Meg Ryan’s strapless blue velvet dress with matching elbow length gloves in When Harry Met Sally), and Christmas, (think Donna Reed’s black velvet dress with lace collar in It’s A Wonderful Life).
They dressed up for work too – I wore tailored suit jackets (with pocket scarves matching the blouse) with skirts to meetings, in fact I don’t think I wore pants to work until 2003. I still have the shirt dress I work to my first job interview – a fine worsted blue wool – I paid $200 for it…. but I got the job. Then there were the April Cornell cotton sundresses (such vibrant colours and prints), which I wore to work in the summer, under a lab coat of course, when the air conditioning was broke – because even though it was a hundred degrees out you couldn’t be seen in bare legs, capri pants or skimpy tops. It seems we have chosen comfort over elegance, but I don’t remember it being a chore to dress up back then. Although it might have been a relief to change into jeans and sweats, we didn’t live in them. Clothes today don’t seem to have as much style, and the material is inferior, and you certainly can’t tell when shopping over the internet, so it becomes a hassle and an expense having to return things. Maybe I am just in that in between age, too young to shop at the stores my mother shops at but too old for most of the stores in the mall, and department stores seems to be a dying breed. I am still mourning the death of Eaton’s…will Sears be next?
The decades I really love are the 50’s and 60’s – the elegant Audrey Hepburn Dior dress era with the little black hats with veils.
I remember my mother having a Jackie Kennedy-like navy blue taffeta dress with a small bustle which she would wear with a string of glass pearls, on the few occasions my parents went out…usually to funerals. The dress is long gone, but I still have the pearls. The roaring twenties was also a lovely era for clothes (think Downton Abbey – elbow length evening gloves and all those hats). You had to wear a hat to church up to the mid-60’s or you would be excommunicated. Hats made a brief come back in the 80’s with Lady Diana, I have two vintage hats, one black with a stylish brim and one white with a big feather…. hats are probably a whole other blog.
Vintage purses are fun especially those that close with a decisive click, and it’s always interesting to look at old jewelry and see if it can be refurbished. I like to browse in vintage stores, but I don’t care for tacky vintage, no matter how expensive the designer label. Likewise, if it’s shopworn….it must be in excellent condition. I once saw a beaded flapper top in a vintage store which I loved but it was so stained under the armpits I couldn’t even try it on. The same store also had the exact same black velvet dress I bought in the 80’s (which still resides in my closet), for $80 – when I went back a month later it was gone, so there might be some money in selling some of this stuff. My friend offered to make me a quilt with the April Cornell sundresses, if only I could be brave enough to cut them up. Last June I needed a WW2 40’s style dress for a swing band dinner dance, (we got last minute tickets the day before), but after a quick visit to Valu Village and the Goodwill I still couldn’t find anything, so I raided my closet and wore a yellow Laura Ashley sundress with a full skirt – so sometimes that vintage closet does come in handy. When we got to the venue, which was an airport hanger they had decorated with war memorabilia, there was a similar yellow dress on a mannequin beside an army jeep. I wish I had thought to get my picture taken beside it, but when I got compliments on my dress, I replied, thanks, it’s vintage!
This is a picture of my grandmother and her sisters around 1920 when women were just starting to show their ankles. I wonder what they would think of all those strategically placed barely there dresses movie stars wear now…
Songs of The Day: Blue Velvet – Bobby Vinten – click here for music link
Frank Sinatra: They Can’t Take That Away From Me – click here for music link
Book of the Day: Vintage by Susan Gloss – see The Vintage Corner on main menu or Goodreads review on the front page.