Recently, I was talking to a new friend about why I love vintage, and it got me thinking about how I got started collecting and wearing old clothes in the first place. I grew up the child of divorce in an affluent community in Virginia. While we were comfortable and my mother gave us every opportunity she possibly could to enrich our lives with culture, healthy food, and lifelong skills, we often weren't flush with disposable cash to spend on frivolous things like full-priced, name brand clothes. I didn't have the money to buy the platinum Jack Rogers and Ralph Lauren button downs my peers were wearing (and I so desperately wanted). Not to mention, a monstrous growth spurt had left me a literal bean pole, standing at 5"7" and weighing in at a diminutive 95 pounds, so much of the clothing I dreamed of wearing wasn't actually that flattering.
On my meager budget, it is no surprise that I began to scour local thrift shops for the castoffs from my more well-to-do peers. And it is in one of those thrift shops that I came across what became my very first vintage purchase: a robin's egg blue, 1950s fit-and-flare dress featuring the most beautiful hand-crocheted lace details and a perfect bow in the back. This dress still hangs in my closet today.
I don't know why, but something told me to try on that dress. And when I did, something inside me changed. I was amazed at how the silhouette made me--the gangliest, most awkward teenager--appear to have graceful curves. I was also struck by the fact that this dress was virtually one-of-a-kind; no one else I knew would have it. And rather than scary and isolating, that felt empowering and freeing. That day standing in Corky's on Caroline Street was the day I fell in love with vintage.
As I've matured, so has my style and I've become more adventurous in my choices, opting now for bolder patterns, brighter colors, and stronger shapes. I love that good vintage never goes out of style, and now that I can splurge here and there on fashionable frivolities, I still choose to invest in quality vintage pieces over brand-new designer ones. When I wear vintage I feel free, I feel uniquely me. Perhaps that is why I feel a pang of sadness whenever someone tells me, "I love that on you, but I could never get away with wearing that..."
So, if you are someone who is afraid to give in to the siren call of decades past, here is my advice to you:
1. Don't let the fear control you! If you like it, wear it! You are the only one who thinks you can't pull it off, trust me. So ignore that judgemental little voice inside and just go for it.
2. Find a decade that feels right. Not all vintage makes a strong statement, nor should it, and not every decade's silhouettes feel comfortable on every body. Find a decade that suits you and pieces that suit your personality, and you will absolutely shine.
3. Rock the hell out of it! The determining factor in pulling off an outrageous piece of vintage is confidence. Don't let the clothes wear you -- wear them with aplomb and you'll be feeling as bold on the inside as you look on the outside.
Jumpsuit - Upper Dream Collective | Heels - Steve Madden (old) | Clutch - vintage | Sunglasses - here • Photography: Kevin McDonald