Wednesday, 3 April 2013

my first favourite vintage dress
(how to grow a vintage collection, and how I started with mine)

vintage full skirt dresses a So, I've been meaning to follow up to my post about how I got into vintage and my first vintage purchase, and I realised I didn't know what the second step was. There are a few things I want to cover, such as how people respond to me wearing vintage, how I found my preferred eras and and how I got it all started, but... it's hard to know where, exactly, to start explaining!

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.

vintage full skirt dresses b 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! vintage full skirt dresses c vintage full skirt dresses d

13 comments: said...

So would you say after these first few bits and bobs it was a slow graduation? or did you go on a bit of a spree once you decided the style you liked? I have a few items, a fur coat, the iodd dress, but find I'm lacking in funds to go all out, and like you say, so what do I wear tomorrow? do i just go back to modern clothes? I find peoples reactions odd to, would you say you eased people in gently?

meg xx

Immortality Passion said...

Love this post. Anad adore vintage clothes and your dresses. I have a lot of vintage dresses and that are really treasure for me.

Naama Tzafon said...

That wasn't too long AT ALL! thanks for sharing!
I love vintage but share some of your earlier concerns, plus, I guess, am far far less committed...
Both dresses are stunning, and the button detail is gorgeous.
What is it with small buttons that they make everything that much cuter?

Anonymous said...

That was a great post, two very beautiful dresses and always so flattering.

I'm particularly interested to hear about how people respond to you wearing vintage. I've had a few double takes...

Nadia M said...

What a great post! I had a lot of fun reading it, and it was definitely helpful :) I have only just started building my own vintage wardrobe, and I always turn to your blog for inspiration. You always look feminine, flawless, and stunning! I can hardly wait for you to post about how others react to your vintage style. I'm especially curious about this since I'm a tad nervous to step outside the norm and stand out. Any tips on how to build the confidence to be different would be great as well! Oops sorry for the long comment, better stop rambling now.. hehe anyway, love your blog! You are a true inspiration to me, and I'm sure many, many others as well! Sending you love x

Helen Le Caplain said...

What a great place to start - such pretty dresses.

Phew I wouldn't even be able to think which dress or coat sparked my full-blown love of vintage.... hmm

Jessica Cangiano said...

This was a thoroughly lovely, relatable read. I know just what you mean about expecting certain dresses (and by extension, various other garments) to be in your wardrobe (especially if you've already fawned over many a picture of them online over the years and/or spotted them in plenty of vintage shops, perhaps even trying some on) and then you go to get dressed one day and realize they're not there. I suppose there will always be more items out there that we want than we can ever afford to fill our closest with, but it is marvelous feeling when you've been collecting vintage for so long that you no longer encounter that scenario on such a frequent basis any more.

♥ Jessica

irene wibowo said...

i love those dresses! ;)
Irene Wibowo

Girl in the Garret said...

I think I have your pink dress in green... Mine is by Blanes, is still its original length, and was a lucky ebay find, it has the little buttons and a removable bow for the back (I don't often wear the bow as it seems just a little too much, but maybe I should try it). The print is incredible - it reminds me of Monet's Waterlilies in a way. I'll stick a picture of it on my sadly neglected blog at some point - would be great to know if it is the same style! On the subject of vintage posts, I wondered if you might do a best finds ever style post? You seem to have lots of luck in op shops (much nicer name than UK charity shops, I think) and I wondered if you had any all-time bargain finds? I once found a Hermes scarf for 75p - would love to know what 'champagne taste on a lemonade budget' discoveries you've made. Thanks for another lovely post - your blog always brightens my day. Emma (

esme and the laneway said...

‪‬ :
Definitely a slow graduation, even though I was trying really hard! Having a small budget doesn't help either, but I think at least it keeps me from buying without thinking. I had by this point got quite a few 1970s and 1980s dresses (from op shops, so budget friendly) and I liked them enough, and so would mix those in. I've found people's reactions 99.9% positive, but then I've never really given a damn about that. And as I couldn't make the change to all out vintage in one go (still don't tbh!) I suppose people just got used to it :) But people react really well to red lips and curled hair! x

‪Immortality Passion‬ : thank you! It's amazing how attached we can get to them, isn't it?

‪Naama Tzafon‬ :
Oh, good, thank you! :D haha I know, buttons right?! It definitely is a commitment (or at least I found it to be) as I have to really trawl to find good pieces that I love and are affordable. It did take me a while, but I've eventually found that the quality of vintage dresses is a HUGE draw card for me, as new ones just in the style can't always live up to them... I've been spoiled by the high quality! x

‪Anonymous‬ : thanks :) Ok, I think I will do a post on that next. It's almost always positive but I was nervous in the beginning!

‪Nadia M‬ : what a lovely comment, thank you x I will definitely do this post next! There is something very liberating about wearing what you love, and getting to the point of being completely comfortable in it. x

‪Helen Le Caplain‬ : it's hard to narrow it down, isn't it! I just remembered these two dresses being a real turning point for me :)

‪Jessica Cangiano‬ :
Ah, you get me! Yes! That's exactly it, I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that :D Everything you've said is so true. x (and we can keep trying to fill any gaps here and there, right?!) :D
‪irene wibowo‬ : thanks, me too! Such lucky good finds :)

‪Girl in the Garret‬ :
Woah that does sounds exactly like this dress – at least in its original form! Please do post photos, I'd love to see it! And I love your idea, I will definitely do that :) I think it can seem as though there is more vintage in our op shops than there really is, when I've been lucky I've shouted it from the rooftops (or blog) but there have been some scores. 75p for the scarf is amazing, though! I don't think I've got any that good! x

Teresa said...

Gorgeous dresses and I love your story behind them.

It's so true about it taking time to find the vintage way that's right for you. I tend to mix and shift around from the 50s to 70s but I will always fall on the perfection that is a 50s early 60s cotton frock. Love them! xo

Mathoune said...

I love your blog and your look. It was not long ago that I discovered your blog, but I enjoy reading it every day. I'm sorry for my english, I'm French. I do not know if there is an option to read your archives? I loved this post, thank you for sharing your world with us! xx Mathoune

Mademoiselle Maladroite said...

Loved to read your post and I absolutely adore the red dress. Which are your favourite etsy shops?

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