Friday, 23 February 2018

Vintage #upanddressed

[Image: Michelle is sitting on a white wooden chair in front of a white door, window and wall. On the floor is a red and blue Turkish rug. She is holding her walking stick and her asymmetrical hair is tucked up to be a straight 20s-30s bob. She wears a 1930s cerise and red vintage full-length evening gown and black vintage-inspired shoes and accessories.]



There is a certain sweetness to wearing vintage. Something no modern garment can quite replicate. Some get close. But none quite match the intrinsic beauty held by vintage pieces. It’s about history and story. Some pieces I own have a provenance. I know where they came from. How they made their way from distant lands to my rural Australian rental home. Some I know little. But the attention to detail in the stitching, the adventurous mix of colours and textures, the simple beauty of hand-covered buttons, all allow me to create stories. They also bring with them a responsibility to preserve and to cherish. To share, rather than hoard away.

I have a special place in my heart for the 1920s-1930s aesthetic. The move from the constrictive garments of the earlier eras slowly giving way to bare arms and ankles, geometric lines and in turn more liberation to experiment. I love the scandals that were women showing ankles, or eating pizza in swimwear en masse, and the move away from highly exaggerated hips and rears and impossible ever shrinking waists. I love a move away from corsets that I know my current day body could never have managed. I swoon enough without the need of whalebone and ties.

I love the fabrics. Vintage velvet stirs my heart more than any other. The feel under my fingertips sends tendrils of joy through my body. The colours and the weight, all feel right to my inner style voice. A couple of years ago I bought my first 30’s full length handmade red silk velvet gown. A dream I had nurtured as a child finally coming to fruition. It was part of an estate in California that was snapped up by a South Australian collector many years ago. Speaking to the seller, I wish I had stumbled across the cache. Something that at the time was unwanted and yet filled with velvets and Czech crystals. Be still my heart. That is my idea of treasure trove. The dress reveals a craftswomanship I wish I possessed. Hand-covered buttons and delicate smocking the product of hours of fine hand stitching. Beautiful full sleeves that leave me stretching my arms out in front of a mirror repeatedly, marvelling at the construction. And my luck.



I now have bedjackets, marcasite broaches and a treasured deep-green hinged bakelite clamper bracelet amongst others. I have pieces from other eras too. Picked up at op shops and vintage sellers. But it is still the 20s and 30s that call. I spend way too much time on glorious sites such as Guermantes Vintage wishing for a Tattslotto win that would allow me to indulge in my passion. Sadly not working and constant medical bills do not seem to work with a desire for gorgeous vintage clothing. 

Recently I received a surprise gift in the mail that added to my collection. I had spotted a beautiful 1930s cerise and red floor-length gown on a local vintage site. It was love at first sight, rather like my red velvet gown, but as I lamented my lack of funds little did I know that a friend had seen my post.

A few weeks ago a package arrived. 

I opened it up to find the same cerise and red, bias cut, washed silk satin, embroidered, floor-length gown. Such kindness and thoughtfulness make the piece and the accompanying bits and pieces all the more special. I know little about the dress though the attention to detail and fine stitching suggest it was made to be treasured. I’ve looked at it hanging in pride of place in my wardrobe for a few weeks waiting for an occasion to wear it and yesterday I decided I was sick of waiting and it became part of my #upanddressed series on Instagram.

I have been frocking up at home for roughly two and a half years now, after all, who doesn’t want to wear a nice dress to sit with their chickens or lie prone under an air conditioner vent and ice packs? But I had put off popping on this piece. Vintage comes with responsibility. Wearing it can be amazing, but it is also about preservation. This piece is around 90 years old so I was conscious of making sure it wasn’t going to be damaged by wear. I wanted to do justice to whoever sat at their singer sewing machine for hours and put this piece together. I want to honour that work and the knowledge that it was once special to someone else. I like to imagine it's original owner attending a glamorous dinner or dancing the light fantastic in this dress. It is definitely fit for such an occasion.

I have been like a child waiting as the hours stretch out slowly on Christmas Eve and yesterday I decided to say bugger it and put it on. I pinned up my asymmetrical bob to be more in keeping with the era. Applied my makeup with shaky hands, and popped on some jewellery. I broke out my $8 bargain basement sale, vintage-inspired shoes and #upanddressed, vintage style.

Freyja and the chickens were suitably impressed.


[Image: Michelle is standing next to a white wooden chair in front of a white door, window and wall. On the floor is a red and blue Turkish rug. She is holding her walking stick and her asymmetrical hair is tucked up to be a straight 20s-30s bob. She wears a cerise and red vintage full-length evening gown and black vintage-inspired shoes and accessories.]

I’m so glad I did. It fits perfectly and moves like liquid. The way the fabric feels and moves makes me want to swish my hips. I did attempt to do just that and I’m sure my elegant clutching at walls and a wobbly walking stick version, could have been straight out of a 1930’s Hollywood blockbuster.


[Image: The lower half of Michelle's body can be seen in front of a white wooden chair in front of a white door, window and wall. On the floor is a red and blue Turkish rug. She is holding her walking stick and wearing a cerise and red vintage full-length evening gown and black vintage-inspired shoes and accessories.]

All in all, it was glorious.


I could have waited, but why? Why not wear it with care? Love it a second time around. Appreciate and recreate a story to match its beauty. I hammed it up in front of the camera and had fun. It was hot outside and I will have to wait for better photos in outside light when the weather cools. But I enjoyed every minute.

I am over waiting.

Being chronically ill life often feels like it is put on hold. We are in a limbo waiting for our body’s course to self-correct, waiting to feel well enough to go out, waiting for the right time to wear a dress, waiting for that special occasion. For the planets to align and the waters smooth.

I am tired of waiting.


So I’ll wear beautiful vintage pieces. I’ll take photos and pretend that I will one day own a complete Miss Fisher wardrobe.

I’ll embrace the beauty of the pieces I am lucky enough to own. 

And I’ll be grateful for thoughtful friends and whoever sat and made this dress with care all those years ago.

Michelle

Huge thanks to the lovely Carly Findlay who is such a thoughtful friend. It's such a lovely gift and I'll treasure it all the more for the thought attached to its purchase.

Update: Mr Grumpy took me out for a nice dinner so I could wear the dress. I added a red velvet jacket I found at a local op shop (thrift store) and a pair of Sigvaris compression stockings.



It's hard to believe that Judy Garland was only 14 when she recorded It's Love I'm After in 1936.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Michelle,
    I finally got diagosed after a tilt table and Qsweat test yesterday, and as I've appreciated several of your posts along the way, I finally decided it was time to say "hi" and "thank you". Ironically I've been thinking about corsets as a way of using abdominal compression - apparently this might make me less light-headed. I have a different type of autonomic issue than you - but I hear you about finding pretty and effective options. I'll be curled up waiting for Florinef to stop being a jerk - but in the mean time, I wish you all the cupcakes, glitter, and macarons ...

    ReplyDelete

All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx