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Favorite vintage clothing


Favorite vintage: It’s just so ME

I’ve been sharing stories about favorite vintage, both yours and mine. One category of favorites is It’s just so ME. You know the one, don’t you? The item that, whether it is the best or not, just seems to express your personality perfectly?

I think I sometimes surprise people at how loudly I can dress on a daily basis. Bright, bold and brash are pretty much exactly my style. I love strong prints and bright colors (especially pink, orange and green).

Here is a 1960s dress I found in a 2nd-hand shop at least 10 years ago. It had a stain on the front and I didn’t think that would ever come out. Yeah, that’s it, a stain that really made it impossible for me to offer for sale—at least that’s how I rationalized keeping MY dress. Not only does it feature favorite colors and a bold butterfly print, but it has a full skirt, which is my favorite silhouette.

I wore the dress on the beach at Coronado when I visited for my niece’s graduation. It looked right at home in that brilliant sunshine. 

I feel so happy and confident in this dress that I even sported it when I helped my friend Anna Newman with her booth at the San Francisco Vintage Expo a few years ago. You’d think I’d want to dress in Bonnie Cashin or Claire McCardell for this discerning crowd, but no, it had to be my ME dress. 

Oh, and the stain came out. But you knew that, didn’t you? 


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Favorite vintage: The goddess dress

Kathryn’s favorite vintage dress met an untimely end, but she may yet find another like it—Now that I know this story, I will keep both eyes open for another.  

My favourite vintage item sadly does not exist any more but I’ve never forgotten it. I bought it from a secondhand shop in the High Street of Oxford (in the United Kingdom) where I was at university in the 1980s. Back then, selling and wearing vintage was not as commonplace as it is now, but this shop stocked a small selection.

The dress that caught my eye was what some people now call a “Goddess” dress. It was navy blue and finely vertically pleated throughout with a boat neckline and a matching cinch buckled belt. The dress was straight, knee length, sleeveless (I think there was some gathering detail at the shoulder) and was labelled as being from 1964. It had a touch of the Audrey Hepburn about it, although she is the last person I resemble, but I tried it on and it looked like it had been made for me, so I bought it on my meagre student income. I think it was the first vintage item I ever bought.

With its simple lines, it was timeless (it would look equally as good today), chic, slimming and in total contrast with the fussy, ruffled, brightly-coloured fashions of the day. I wore it a lot and always got compliments in it. It worked for day or evening. It didn’t need jewellery as the statement neckline and the pleats spoke for themselves.

It went with me on dates and parties I’ve long forgotten but I’ve never forgotten that dress.

Sadly, it met an untimely end.

I came back from university and and my mother took it upon herself, without telling me, to wash the dress in the washing machine. I don’t know what happened but all the pleats fell out, leaving the dress just a large navy blue tent—it was ruined, unwearable.

This is the only picture I’ve got of me in the dress—it was taken in a grassy field in the country in Somerset (told you I wore it everywhere!) when I was on break with a friend just before my final exams at university. It doesn’t really show all the fine details of the dress but you can see its clean and simple lines.

I’d love another dress like that but have sadly never seen one.

Funnily enough Margaret of Denisebrain had a very similar dress up for sale on her Etsy site a year or two back, in the very same colour, but by the time I saw the link, it had already been sold...

I know just the one she means, and now I’m so sorry it didn’t sell to you Kathryn—The next one is yours, I promise!

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Favorite vintage: Sentimental favorite

My sentimental favorite vintage item is my mother’s ring.

My mother, as I’ve mentioned before in my blog, grew up in Iowa during The Great Depression. Her father was a banker who worked with farmers to keep their farms from being foreclosed upon. My grandfather also worked with prisoners at a local penitentiary to find skills for them to take back into the real world. He worked with an expert forger to create the Sheaffer Signature Pen.

One man learned to craft jewelry. As a thank you to my grandfather, this man made a ring “to match his daughter’s eyes.” It is sapphire blue glass in a gold setting, very simple and elegant. My mother’s eyes were exactly this color. My eyes are green, but I still love wearing this beautiful ring.

My mother showing off her new ring
What is your sentimental favorite vintage clothing or accessory item, and why? I’d love to add your story to my blog.

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Favorite vintage: Makes me happy just to think about

I have a dress that I purchased from an older woman when she moved from the area. She was collecting vintage clothing to start a business, but bad health got in her way. I answered a newspaper classified ad and drove a couple of hours to a remote town on a river.

I had almost no experience with buying vintage, so I’m sure my eyes were huge and my face gave away my love of what I saw. The very sweet lady, Joann, was easy on me regarding a purchase price for her 200-piece collection. She has called me since and I really feel she thinks her plans for her business were partly carried out by me, which is an honor. I have kept certain items which seemed singularly unbelievable to me at the time...some are still absolutely unique and wonderful to my more seasoned eye.

Now all that remains of Joann’s collection are sentimental favorites, but none so much as the “denisebrain dress.” Joann wanted to see a picture of me wearing something, so I chose my immediate favorite.

The quick shot I took (2001 it was) became my logo at the time.

I have used the dress for one of my monthly themes (Think Pink, naturally)

The dress has even been our Christmas tree.

Do I wear it often? No, not hardly, but it makes me glad every time I look at the dress...or even think about it. It’s my single most favorite dress.


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Another favorite vintage item

I received this story and photo from Charlotte:

I think my grandmother’s 1936 platinum and diamond engagement ring is my favourite vintage item. I wear it at least once a week. Those who don’t know jewelry seldom notice it and instead go for my cheap, flashy, costume stuff. Jewelers, though, hone in on it like flies to honey and start to salivate. It’s simple, incredibly beautiful, and reminds me of a woman I admired a great deal, and the love she shared with my jovial, gentle grandfather.

Charlotte writes a blog called Sublime Mercies (“Style, feminism, disability... and finding small beauties in a big bad world”).  It is sometimes about colors and fashions and what Boo and Beau are wearing, but it is always about something more. I have rarely felt such emotion reading a blog as I have a number of times with Sublime Mercies...whether tearing up or laughing out loud. 

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Favorite vintage: My odd collection

This is a rerun post, originally published in 2006 ( whole years ago!). I have a couple of other small vintage clothing collections, but this is probably the one that would surprise most.

The first time I laid eyes on a crazily-bright half slip my heart did a somersault!

I think I love these because they came at a time when fashion was evolving. Particularly the late 60s ones seem to struggle to be relevant at a time when the previously mandatory slip was about to become uncool and outmoded. They are also fun, funny and undisclosed...a secret party!

I never go looking for these half slips, they just sort of fall in my path, like lucky pennies.

I have four more of these fun half slips now...and as always, they just fell my way.

Do you have a favorite vintage collection? A surprising vintage collection?

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First and favorite vintage: Another story

Leigh Anne has a story about favorite vintage that really falls into a lot of categories: It’s her favorite vintage item, it’s a sentimental favorite, it’s her earliest memory of vintage, and it’s the one that got least temporarily. Read on:

My “first vintage” was before I knew what it was, or even before it could actually be labeled such—it is also one one my earliest memories (before I was 3). 
In the back of my mother’s closet hung this dress that she had purchased at the Neiman’s in Atlanta with her very first paycheck some 6 years before I was born. She paid $100 for it and was so proud of the fact that she had earned the money herself to buy it—definitely a splurge for a 20-something single working woman at that time. 
Fast forward to 1975: I had climbed into her closet to play with her shoes and came across this. It was hanging in its dress bag and my earliest “textile” memory involves feeling the wool chenille squares on the skirt. I remember thinking “what is this?” and being intrigued as I never saw my mother wear it. When I was older I asked her why it wasn’t worn. She said that after she was pregnant with me she couldn’t fit into it and of course, the style had changed. But rather than get rid of it, she kept it due to the expense and the memories of the dress. As a teen, I LOVED it and wore it for various 60s costume contests and such (and of course I won). 
In 1996, my dress was lost in a house fire and I thought I would never see it again. Then a couple of years ago out of the blue the dress showed up on Ebay with a seller in Dallas; she had purchased at the Neiman’s there and was finally selling. I immediately bought it and have it today. I wear this dress any chance I get now—not just the costume contests—and always get feedback on it. Amongst all of my vintage that I now have, this is still my most favorite piece—it’s what hooked me in the first place for a lifelong love affair with clothing and especially with vintage.

Leigh Anne told me it’s nice to know she’s not the only “crazy vintage girl” out there.

What’s your first vintage, your favorite vintage, your one that got away? Please share your story and let Leigh Anne know she’s in good company!

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First vintage

I can tell from comments on my Facebook page and blog that there are indeed many categories for our vintage stories. How about Leisa’s “One That Got Away?” (Her favorite piece, a 1940s black rayon crepe dress with silver beading is languishing in her ex’s storage unit. We’re all pulling for you Leisa!)

This morning I got a note from Kym: 

This is a story of my first vintage. Like so many auspicious accounts, it starts at a Saturday morning yard sale. I was in the fifth grade. The sale was hosted out of town on a secluded organic farm and my mom wasn’t optimistic that she’d find anything to her liking (“I think they’re hippies” she whispered when we pulled up). 

My mom wasn’t wrong, but amid the macramé and half-burnt candles, I seized upon something exquisite. All in a matching pea green hue: pumps, gloves and a beret. After some insisting ($5 is steep on yard sale Saturday), they were mine. Once home, I cleared a bedroom shelf to display them. 

When I assembled these pieces for their group photo today, I noticed something new. For all these years, I thought the pumps, gloves and beret were a matched set. They aren’t! Decades ago, one perfect woman cobbled together a set of accessories so perfectly paired that they’d pass as mates. What thoughtfulness. I’m proud to be the steward of such an elegant trio. 

I would have loved to meet the woman who shared my favorite shade of green and who probably felt self-conscious about her size 8.5 feet. I want to tell her that in 2013, we all have size 8.5 feet. These days, my first vintage has a lot of company. But I consider these an emblem of the moment I first knew I could (and should!) express myself creatively. 

What was your first vintage? The one that got away? Your sentimental favorite vintage? Do tell!



Favorite vintage clothing

OK, so it isn’t easy to pin down your single favorite vintage item as I asked a couple of posts ago. I myself can’t do it. I have favorites in these categories:

1. Amount of use/years of service
2. Sentimental favorite
3. Collection of items of one favorite type
4. Item I have hardly worn but makes me happy just to think about
5. So completely me

I’m sure the list could go on. Since I want to encourage your stories, I will start with the most used vintage item in my closet. If you know me in person you will no doubt recognize my late 1960s bright red-orange belted jacket.

My husband took this photo of me for my vintage fabric bag business back in 2002. The jacket was a 2nd-hand purchase a couple years before. I probably wear this jacket 50 or 60s times during a year, and about 30% of the time I get a compliment on it. 100% of the time I am happy in it. 

What vintage item do you use the most? 



Your favorite vintage clothing

Let’s get personal.

Do you have a favorite vintage clothing or accessory item? Your dad’s bowling shirt? A purse you purchased new when you were in high school 30 years ago? A 2nd-hand store score?

I am interested in your favorite item, and the reason why you love it. Pictures would be great. With your permission, I would like to post your story here on my blog. Please send your story and photos to me at

I’ll be eagerly watching for your story!