Monday, 5 October 2009

Love Affair With Vintage Fashion

I’ve always had a thing about vintage clothes. I think it's a fascination for the dressing-up box that has never quite left me. As a student often bought my clothes in charity shops and second-hand shops, wearing vintage dresses and blouses before the phrase ‘vintage’ was widely used for other people's old clothes. When I was writing Invitation To The Boss's Ball I thought about some of the lovely dresses and blouses I had bought in various ‘retro’ shops, and I realised that I had owned more than just a couple of vintage items. At one time they had made up a major part of my wardrobe.

Here’s a pic of me in a 1950s dress that was a particular favourite in the late 80s. This was taken on my honeymoon, when I visited Venice. I don’t have the dress any more, unfortunately. It eventually disintegrated, but I wore it until it fell apart.

As I looked back through my photo albums, I discovered many more photos of vintage clothing I’d worn. Here’s one of me at my 21st birthday party, wearing a home-made peach lace cocktail dress I found in a shop near where I went to college. The satin bow round the waist was just the most amazing fabric. When Alice's admires the cocktail dress in the opening paragraphs of the book, it was this bow I was thinking about as I wrote:

"The old oyster-coloured satin had the most wonderful texture—smooth but not slippery, like modern imitations, stiff and reassuringly heavy. Anyone who saw the cocktail dress would just have itched to touch it, and this is what Alice did, letting her fingertips explore it fully, lingering on the crease of the sash as it folded into a bow just under the bust line."

As well as my charity shop finds there were the items I hijacked from my mother’s wardrobe. I still have two suede jackets of hers from the 60s, one brown, one bottle-green. Wish I could still fit into them. I have to confess to being a 'goth' in my latter teenage years, which happened to be around the time that Madonna first burst onto the pop scene. (Okay, seriously giving my age away here!) I dressed like many of my friends who had straight hair, but they teased me mercilessly for trying to look like Madonna - which I hotly denied, of course. I reckon it must be the curly hair - it added a different dimension to the look. But when I found this picture of myself in my mum's suede-fronted green jacket, I had to admit my friends might just have had a point. Oh well, being compared to someone who is now one of the world's most successful female artists isn't too shabby really, is it?

This picture was taken at a fancy dress party which had a 60s theme. The velvet and chiffon dress was one from that very decade, passed down to me by my grandmother. She recognised my penchant for old and unusual clothes, even though she often tutted at my fashion choices. The dress was originally knee length, but I shortened it to get an even stronger 60s look. Wish I hadn't now. Don't think I will ever be brave enough (or young enough) to wear it that short again.

At the very beginning of Invitation To The Boss's Ball, my vintage clothing aficionado heroine is unpacking a box that her partner has brought back from a house clearance:

"Alice carefully lifted a peacock-blue taffeta evening cape out of the box and when she saw what was underneath it, she froze. There they were, just sitting there—the perfect pair of shoes."

I have to own up to possessing that very peacock-blue cape. It's gorgeous, with vibrant blue watermarked taffeta on the outside, and a matching white taffeta lining. It has a little silver button at the collar and tailored slits in the front to elegantly slip your wrists through. Trying it on, you have to resist the urge to swan around like Grace Kelly. At least I do. Never had the courage or the occasion to wear it, though. Too worried about looking like a superhero who's lost her way. Maybe one day.


Jan Jones said...

Wear the evening cape to the 2010 Gala Dinner!!!

Love all those clothes. The 60s cocktail one was just so right. I have a photo of me somewhere in a mini up to my, er... lets just say that these days it'd be described as a tunic top.

Happy days, eh?

Anonymous said...

I ADORE those pics - thank you for being brave enough to share them. When I think of my 80's permed hair .. gulp! The cape sounds devine. Would love to see it. :-)

Biddy said...

WOW! I love the photos and those clothes. I am tempted to come and raid your wardrobe now.

I have been reaquainting myself with my 80s wardrobe. Still have a few things that I can get back into again. :-)

Anonymous said...

CarolC said...

Wow Fiona, what great photos and gorgeous clothes.

I think the peacock blue cape sounds gorgeous, could definitely be worn on a winters night.

One of my favorite dresses of the moment was bought for a Murder Mystery night from a charity shop. I love it and it's perfect for when I want to feel to feel a bit glam (or like a 1930's faded movie star who was not the murderer despite harsh allegations!)

Michelle Styles said...

We must have a discussion about vintage clothes sometime!

There is just something about a well made dress. And vintage clothes tend to be better made...

Kate Hardy said...

I'm with Jan. Wear that cape to the Gala Dinner. It sounds perfect. (If you want support, then I'll wear my feather boa.)

Thanks for sharing those pics - you were stylish in the 80s, which is no mean feat :o)

Fiona Harper said...

Oh, believe me, I have plenty of pics from the 80s that I do not want publicised! Shall bear the cape in mind...