And so I am going to start with my favourite vintage dress.
Or, at least, what I generally refer to when I am asked what my favourite dress is.
This pink and red dress is one of the first vintage dresses I bought. Definitely not the first one – I'll have to rack my brains a bit to find that! – but it was the first one I fell for completely; the first one I loved and felt comfortable in every time I wore it – and I still do. It went a huuuuge way in helping me find my vintage style.
I remember at the time, having been into vintage for so long, that I kind of expected certain styles of dresses to be in my wardrobe, and they just weren't. Of course they weren't, I hadn't got round to actually finding and getting them, but they seemed so classic, so obvious, that I had vague notions that oh, yeah, I've got something along those lines, sort of... and I sort of did. Sort of but not really.
One of these styles was the all time classic that everyone thinks of when they think of vintage: a mid century full skirted print dress. I had some 1980's sun dresses in that kind of style, an early 1960's sundress that was perfectly nice, but nothing completely amazing. None of them were the real deal. I'd never even really liked the cupcake sticky-out-skirt stuff, having been more interested in the 1930's and 1940s, but I'd grown to also love this later style. I'd never really enjoyed dressing for summer – and, growing up in London, that was hardly a problem! A huge part of getting into this look was the climate I'd moved to – it's extremely hot for a good few months of the year, for days and days on end. I had to adjust and learn to dress for hot summers, and learn to like it, too. And what could be better than these 50's and 60's cotton dresses? I now knew they didn't have to include pointy shoes and prim little hair do's.
I made the conscious decision to find a 1950's full skirted cotton print dress, and found this red and pink one on etsy. It was more expensive than what I had been used to paying until then, but I absolutely loved it; the colours, the small abstract floral print, the gathers at the waist topped with a neat row of buttons. And when it arrived, it was even more amazing than I expected – the fabric! I never used to understand the passion for fabrics, as I went more for colour and style, but now I SO get it! The cotton was weighty and soft and you can feel the amazing quality. It's vintage and it's beautiful!
And this dress soon became a wardrobe staple. It worked well for the cooler months, as the elbow-length sleeves make it perfect for all but the hottest weather – although we do have plenty of that! I liked that it was a little shorter than these dresses usually are, too, as I'm quite short myself and felt that the longer lengths might be a bit frumpy on me. It was the first time I'd felt so completely at home in a dress, and I think this is the important bit: I'd found what I loved. It was comfortable, practical (I pop it in the washing machine and it doesn't mind) and good for everyday.
Of course, one dress is a start – but then what? And this was always the thing that put me off wearing vintage at first; you have one dress, and then what to wear tomorrow, and the next day, and so on... having the patience to build a wardrobe of vintage takes time. Who wants to wait?
The next step for me was to try and replicate the perfection of the red dress. About a year later I found the blue and purple one. I'd worn a friend's floral print sundress and unlike my red one, it hadn't been chopped shorter, and I loved the longer length. I'd just had a bit of a 1970s phase – it didn't last very long – think The Uncanny and the girl with the cat – and was very excited to be back enjoying earlier stuff. Again, this dress was so perfect, the fit and colour and fabric were spot on, and it was worn over and over again. It was sealed – the floral print cotton dresses of the 1950's and early 1960's were for me!
Well, that was longer than I expected! I hope it is helpful in some way. As ever, if you have any questions, please just ask. And if there are any other things about the early days of the whole vintage-wearing thing, please let me know!