1930s + 1970s: It’s a Beautiful Day for a Costume

If I were attempting to channel Little Edie in response to the pandemic, I might indulge in play, in costuming. I might sing and dance or read about astrological signs. I might feed stray animals or lounge in the sun, spy on the neighborhood happenings or make a quick trip to the store for a little ice cream for myself and my cohabitant. Truth be told, I’ve done a little of all these things. But, in true Little Edie fashion, I have also attempted sincere self-reflection.

If you aren’t familiar with Little Edie, the affectionate nickname given to the junior Edith Beale of Grey Gardens, allow me to introduce her to you. The Beales, a mother and daughter both named Edie, were the well-to-do aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The family knew money, high-society, and extravagance. But after husband and father Phelan Beale left the picture, Big and Little Edie were left with their 28-room mansion in the Hamptons and, according to Biography.com, little else.

Both women were performers: Big Edie a classical singer and Little Edie a model and aspiring actress. Little Edie ended her New York socialite days in the early 1950s to return home and take care of her mother. For the next 25 years, the women lived in what became a dilapidated home occupied by themselves and a host of raccoons and stray cats. In 1973 they eagerly became the subjects of David and Albert Maysles’ documentary Grey Gardens.

In the film, Edie and her mother are occasionally shown bonding–over a radio program, gossip, or the well-being of their “pets”. But more often presented is a passive-aggressive resentment from Little Edie and a put-out bossiness on the part of Big Edie. Understandably, being closed in with one person presents both its joys and challenges. No, I don’t find myself wondering what my life would be like if I weren’t with my husband Daniel. But do I find myself longing for the ease with which we moved freely in our outside world before Covid-19. Like Edie, I find myself resenting the choices of others (in our case, those who have chosen not to take the virus seriously) and wondering what connections I could be making in my desired fields of writing and and art if I weren’t so shut in. In perhaps not ways as extreme as the Beales’ situation, it is also a time of reflecting on one’s family: the pasts, presents and futures or ourselves and those we are closest to.

While she and I both hold strong opinions about a lot of things and as she was a self-described “S-T-A-U-N-C-H” character, Edie also chose to make the most of her life and her situation. Especially in regard to the Grey Gardens documentary, Edie was well known for her love of “costumes,” iconically describing her look to the filmmakers one morning by telling them, “I think this is the best costume for the day.”

The look I donned for this shoot was intended as an homage to her style. Because Edie was a society girl, I felt it was fitting to wear this balloon sleeved velvet blouse from the decade she was honored with a debutante party: the 1930s. The skirt and rust-colored cape (which, is there anything more dramatic or possibly Edie-approved than a cape?) date to the 1970s, and the scarf is vintage as well. Scarves–and improvised scarves–were a big part of Little Edie’s wardrobe, as she had suffered hair loss because due to alopecia. Edie was inventive and playful and knew the importance of expressing herself even when no one else could see her.

There is a world and a life past this one, past the one full of fear and frustration, and it takes a lot to remind myself that sometimes. I don’t mean just spiritually, but physically, too, in this lifetime. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve had creative highs and lows. Great, exciting possibilities and rather debilitating slumps. I have to continually check in with myself on what I want to do with my life and with the privilege I’ve been given and the talents I’ve nurtured.

Sometimes I’m not ready for that challenge. I have too often been unwilling to make a plan of action after confronting the systemic ugliness in our world and the ways in which I’ve benefited from it. I don’t know where exactly I go from here, but I think if I were to channel Little Edie, I would find that it was best to be honest with myself and with the kind of person I am capable of choosing to be. A person who cares about the lives of those closest to me, but also about the lives I cannot see.

People have long debated the Beales’ circumstances, wondering who in their right minds would live the way they did. But their connections and status as white women, for the most part, protected them.

A few years before filming, the local government threatened to evicted the Beales because of how bad a shape the property was in. Cousin Jackie stepped in with the money needed to make repairs, and, temporarily, clean-up, and they were spared the ordeal of leaving their home. That kind of safety net isn’t necessarily available for Black communities who are struggling with the places they live. Recognizing that, and perhaps even introducing that idea to others, is only a beginning. I often start and stop projects, losing momentum when convenient. But I am adamant that I must continue to learn what my role is in making this world a more just and livable and beautiful place. It will take more than a few staunch women to do that.

1970s Evocative Black and White Elegance

There’s something about this dress that makes me feel as though I’m getting back to my roots of vintage. But the spark of familiarity I felt when I first saw it is only rivaled by the spark of inspiration I feel seeing it now.

See, this dress is a sister of sorts to the very first vintage dress that I bought. That dress, which will be a treasure to showcase someday, has a long peach-colored skirt, a sash, and long sleeves. The neckline is different, but what isn’t is the material–a stretchy, breathable poly-cotton–and the bodice details. I found that dress in Oklahoma and this one in Illinois. Neither has a label, but both called out to me, speaking my language of ease, of fancifulness, of soft glamour.

Finding this dress made me feel a little more at home. It made me believe that perhaps I would be able to find things to appreciate about the new place I’d found myself in. It would be hard. Some days it still is. But I believe there is a natural curiosity in us that wants to see how good things can be.

As a sometimes (read: frequent) pessimist (‘realist’ for my fellow curmudgeons), it can be hard to push back against feelings that tell you that having something to complain about makes you valid, heard, or right. It’s difficult to give up on those things but often necessary. While I know that vintage–or any material thing for that matter–isn’t the cure to these problems, it can help remind me that life is indeed fun, surprising, and interesting.

With every piece I come to know and love, there comes also a new perspective. Take this dress for example. The color-blocked tuxedo tune of black and white, or charcoal and soft cream to be more accurate, delivers a wow factor on its own. The bodice details, though, in my opinion, are what elevate this from fancy to fantastical.

I am utterly charmed by the five black discs of fabric and their delicate wreaths of green and yellow needlework and rhinestones. They make me think of black holes, the cosmic made fairy tale by a few sprigs of greenery. That the rest of the bodice is dotted with additional rhinestones makes it continually spectacular: stars against snow.

The dress has wonderful structure to it as well. The high neck strikes a lovely balance with the large cutout neckline, and the darted bust works similarly with the center seam of the skirt. Without creating a typical empire waist, the dress also has a dramatic ascending point bodice, which, along with the downward facing triangle of the cutout, helps to set up the clean lines of symmetry seen in the discs.

The intrigue of this dress for me isn’t in what it first seems to be. For one, so much of what made it special was that it was so familiar to the dress that, in many ways, launched my love of vintage. It was something I could appreciate uniquely for that reason, and that is a part of the experience I’m very thankful for. Secondly, though, it’s the contrast. Not just in the black and white or the unexpected angles but the darkness offset by the colors of spring. Blankness decorated with the ornate.

Whatever way I’m seeing the world, I must believe, is valid at least to a degree, and not because of my own stubbornness. My own darkness and anxieties, my own black holes can be wreathed with flora themselves. They can exist together. They can be beautiful.

1940s Stupendous Scarlet Suit

There are certain places a person feels lucky to belong in. Places you perhaps thought you could–even longed to–be part of. And when you open the door you think, How did I get this lucky? For me, a little shop in downtown DeKalb is that sort of place.

Cracker Jax has been open for going on 36 years. The first time I set foot inside I was taken aback by the sheer amount of things to see and experience. It was like being transported to a cotton candy-colored dream land, complete with books and statuettes, incense and vintage clothing. The thought (read: dream) of working at this shop didn’t really solidify for me on the trip during which I found myself first exploring it. I was just happy to have found such a curious place. Later, it would become an occasional weekend excursion, and I was always excited to see what new things there were to be found there. Somewhere along the line, though, I became more than a customer.

Last summer I left a job that was perfect on paper. It was in my degree field, had good benefits, and was at a nonprofit no less. But it was unsatisfying in many ways, and I determined that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to continue going. I quit and, after finishing up my substitute teacher certification, began to plant the seeds of my writing career. Approximately one month later, I found out that there was an opening at the shop.

This job is a different type of hard. A hard that feels satisfying. It is a job with physical demands of lifting, reaching, climbing, crouching, and standing for long periods. Given the choice, I’d take these tasks over sitting in an office in front of a computer any day. I’m thankful to be able to move my body in these ways, and I’m thankful that this job allows me to.

There is also a great deal of organization that goes on in the shop, which is one of my favorite aspects–from the details of alphabetizing vinyl records to the ingenuity of creating or updating a display. Creativity abounds at Cracker Jax. And the way that extends to the practice of bringing new life to old things is what makes me feel so connected to it. Vintage clothing has a place here, and like this beautiful red suit–a junior’s style according to the label–the things here don’t have to be forgotten and left to the past. If this vibrant piece, with its button details and shoulder pads, stands out to me in its sweetness and wearability, there is hope that something will similarly strike someone else’s fancy and spark inspiration.

This is all before mentioning the customers, both new and loyal, that make any retail job what it is. While I tend to be a more reserved personality, I genuinely look forward to the interactions I have with people who visit the shop. Having moved to Illinois from Oklahoma, I felt incredibly isolated our first year here. Now I help people find treasures for the ones they love, things that will brighten their days and bring a little sunshine into them. I hear comforting words from a mother whose own children live far from her and get excited with people my age after replacing batteries brings an old Furby back to life. I have the pleasure of letting myself see the shop for the first time with every customer I greet.

Since leaving my previous job, I have developed several writing projects, had two (going on three) poems and one essay published, substitute taught three days of school (now that’s tough job), and worked many, many shifts at Cracker Jax. In this time, I’ve rediscovered parts of myself I feared were lost. The ability to slow down, to create, to dream, to be awe-struck. I recognize the immense privilege afforded me so that I may be in this position. I’m thankful for my darling, talented co-workers and the little slice of heaven that owner Lauren Woods has created here. My only hope is that in reconnecting with people, with daydreams and sweet things, that I too can make the world a little nicer.

1960s Lemon Yellow Linen

My initial thoughts behind this post were to discuss the modern essence of this dress. There is something so classic in its design that often times, when wearing it, I wonder if it appears to even be vintage. It reminded me of the cyclical nature of fashion, the idea that trends and styles and inspirations come back in waves decade after decade.

This bright yellow linen dress is from the 1960s, but something similar could easily been spotted in a department store last spring. Its simple shape, peppy color, darted bust, and eye-catching crochet details make it a timeless sort of garment.

I also hoped to make the argument that the sixties have been the most influential decade in terms of trend resurgence. Beginning in the 1990s with the reintroduction of looks like the baby doll dress, 60s inspiration continued into the 2000s and 2010s with bold prints as semi-professional office attire as well as the bohemian look rightfully associated with music festivals.

Unfortunately, the very specific examples of geometric and floral prints I had in mind weren’t something I was able to find, and I believed that was where the crux of my case was. (This article I found does however encapsulate a lot of the other thoughts I had and provides some great visuals.)

But the truth is, as with many of my recent posts, I’ve found I’m just as interested in applying the concept to my own life. Much like fashion, much like the changing of leaves, life is cyclical. We might swing back and forth between highs and lows, between wanting and shunning, showing and hiding. There may one day exist within grasp the most beautiful colors we’ve ever imagined, only to be followed by the bleakest and most grey feelings we’ve ever encountered.

As I continue on my vintage journey–finding pieces, wearing them, sharing my thoughts on the subject–I have to remember that even this experience is cyclical. There are times I don’t want to wear vintage or can’t because of the weather. There are times I feel utterly at a loss for what to say about vintage, not to mention good ol’ impostor syndrome telling me even if I did know what to say, I’ve no business saying it because I might not be as qualified as someone else.

But there is plenty of sway in the opposite direction. Like the terribly fun challenge of dressing down a glamorous dress (this one, with a brown silk button-down tied over it) for work. Or having a friend point to an outfit and say they would wear it themselves, reminding you that while vintage is different and sometimes odd, you are not the only one inspired by it. Sometimes it’s as simple as a dress like this one. As modern and classic as it feels, it assures you that you’re right where you need to be, that the change of seasons will go on, and that you will be okay for it.

1960s Strawberry Nightgown

There is a little stretch of woods at the edge of our neighborhood that I have only ventured off to a few times. I always find myself claiming that it’d be such a beautiful place to spend time: to listen to the birds, the river twisting through, the sound of leaves and twigs settling after welcoming a strange human wanderer. But like many things I say I’d like to make time for, I don’t.

One thing this blog has been over the past year is an invitation to slow down. When I began writing on Beautiful Day three years ago, I made it my mission to post every two weeks. That led me to a quick burnout and long stretches of inactivity. In those stretches (and in times since) I doubted my capabilities, wondered if I’d eventually reach an age at which I couldn’t enjoy wearing vintage, and felt as though no one could ever be interested in what I was doing in the way that I was.

But I was determined to find a way to continue the work I’d put into something I was so passionate about. I spent a good amount of time crafting a new logo, teaching myself a thing or two about digital illustration. I printed business cards and changed the layout of the blog. I had a realistic schedule, and I was going to follow it. With this energy came a new set of eyes and what did they spot on an outing one day but this 1960s strawberry print nightgown. In a discount bin at that, for a whopping $5.

It would be the first vintage I had purchased in close to a year. I wouldn’t say that I consider it a sign of any sort; I certainly didn’t then. But retrospectively I can view it as symbolic in its easiness. It wasn’t looking to be found; it just was.

I didn’t realize that the piece was a nightgown or house dress until long after I bought it. I researched the label, Miss Elaine, and found a decent amount of information from the Vintage Fashion Guild. This lingerie company was founded in 1926 and is still in operation. A simple search of “Miss Elaine nightgowns” actually turns up several department stores and shopping results for very traditional ladies sleepwear. Most, however, are in the pastel color palette and don’t exude the same playfulness as this dress does with its fruity print.

Part of the traditional look that is apparent on this vintage piece is a simple silhouette with cuffed sleeves and a pointed flat collar. The fabric is lightweight and as airy as the roomy pocket that sits below the hip, and a series of textured metal snaps runs down the entire length of the nightgown. What I initially thought of as a pin-tucked bodice is really more of a gathered yoke, which gives the dress a smock feel. This was what my first impression of it was, that it appeared to be something akin to an artist’s smock. The print, though–a homey pattern of blue and yellow strawberries interspersed with tulips and daisies–seemed too striking to have ever been potentially splattered with paint.

But perhaps it would take to other forms of art. Sipping tea on a quiet morning. Reading a favorite book. Being alive in nature. Transforming a nightgown into day-wear as the modern wearing of vintage compels me to do.

Simply, slowing down.

1980s Puff-Sleeved Accessory Dress

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So much of who we are, who we feel we are, or who we portray ourselves to be is based on small choices we make. Not limited to paths or lifestyles, but on a smaller scale, the reactionary experiences we take part in and the ways we do or don’t choose to grow.

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When I look at this strange 1980s dress, awash with a whimsical accessory print and abstract geometric designs, it looks nothing like me. I’m drawn to little more than the colors and the oddity that it is on a whole. But what it does feel like is a representation of choices made in the mad rush of life: colorful and soft, harsh and bewildering all at once.

White, indigo, magenta, and bright red are the standout colors of this dress’s details. These shades make up the printed accessories, which include a number of handbags, big hats, belts, and ballet slipper flats. Unlike something that has, say, a decked-out collar that would make a necklace redundant, this piece is practically begging for its motif to be brought to life and exaggerated. Like the decade itself, the dress seems to scream, “bigger and better.”

The lightweight fabric of the dress, perhaps rayon, is well-suited to playing dress-up, and heavier accessories help to balance it out.

The pale aquamarine hue is the perfect template for a series of mismatched patterns: grids, circles, and a textured blocking reminiscent–or predictive–of a 90s computer text/shape-fill option. In fact, the origin of this geometrics-heavy aesthetic can be traced to the Memphis Group, a design firm based in Italy.

Clearly, the look is still inspiring, as such design choices prompt me to take on the role of a puffy-sleeved arm chair philosopher.

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When I put on a vintage dress, I am perhaps communicating that I enjoy fashion, have an appreciation for old things, and don’t (at my most secure) mind not fitting in.

But the physical hat I choose to wear is far less important than the metaphorical one: who will I be and how will I respond when a circumstance isn’t ideal? Can I choose to see patterns in my own behavior and move toward a more kind and productive way of being? Is there rhyme or reason to the way things pop up and fade out–on this wacky dress or in life?

In wearing vintage, in blogging about it, I must say that I have come to understand something about definitions. That is, that many of them may constantly be altered and added to. From mixing decades–a 40s purse here, a 50s cropped jacket there, even a 60s hat thrown in–to being fully present in a shoot to collaborating with my husband, I am not defined by one choice or reaction, but how I choose to move into the next situation. It is trial and error. It is mismatched and cluttered. It is a series of costume changes and additions, things that work and things that don’t. Somehow, I must conclude that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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1970s Hot Pink House Dress

A house dress may be one of the easiest vintage styles there is. Step into one, zip it up (as most styles do), and go about doing whatever you please–chores or play. There is something effortless to it, something that doesn’t ask for further embellishment, pretense, or any particular body/beauty standards to be present.

That isn’t quite what can always be said about documenting vintage styles, but it is something I strive for. More often than I’d like to admit though, especially if we haven’t done a shoot in a while, I get anxious about the next opportunity. This has happened more frequently as of late because of the challenges of a new environment, the growing backlog of things tried and attempted, and the self-imposed demands of a monthly schedule.

While I adore this recently purchased dress, it isn’t an old favorite that I’ve put off capturing, waiting for the perfect setting, light, atmosphere, or story. The chance to document this dress in a difficult environment without giving into guilt associated with taking a creative risk and (possibly) achieving a mediocre outcome was refreshing. A flea market provides limited opportunities for classic poses, not to mention the draw of being at such an event: while a keen and wandering eye might rule out the the possibility of a typical photo, it may allow one to spot a unique treasure.

This particular treasure sports floral embroidery in soft yellow, lavender, and a much brighter blue-raspberry–the same color as the accenting rickrack that lines the bodice panel as well as two sides of each of the large rectangular pockets.

When I initially saw the dress on the sale rack, the bright pink color caught my eye, but the rest did not, at least not in a way that impressed me. The stitching felt folksy in nature, and I doubted that it was something I’d be able to pull off. Passing it by several more times, however, convinced me that perhaps I should at least try it on. I did and was astonished by how the kitsch elements seemed to fade into the background of a completely wearable garment.

The pintucks on the bodice pull the eye away from the center zipper, which extends about five eighths of the way down the length of the dress. The smaller size of the bodice also gives the dress somewhat of a tent shape, or more accurately, that of a trapeze dress.

It is a testament to the always-surprising nature of vintage: that what you expect is not always what you find. The same can be said of blogging about it, discussing it, researching it. If what I want to present in my sharing of this passion is that vintage can and should be inspiring and fluid, I have to allow myself to practice the same level of flexibility.

Sometimes slipping into something comfortable, even if it’s not what we consider perfect and polished, is just what we need.

1960s Lively Navy Mini

In 2015 I was studying communication, working part-time, falling in love, and making friends that I would later consider family. The part of my life in which I began collecting vintage was a time of change, discovery, and redefining–expanding, even–my concept of home. In a sense, that is what my journey through vintage is and has always been about.

This dress, this easy, playful shift, was a hallmark of that time. I felt free in the vintage I wore, as though I were coming into new parts of myself. I wore a pink denim vest and read poetry on sunny lawns and in clock tower shade. I teased my closest friend that I would buy red sequinned pants and did. I regularly spent part of my newspaper job paychecks on vintage, eagerly awaiting packages at my college dorm (if a friend was nearby I’d open it with them) or my parents’ house if it were summer.

This dress actually came from the same seller as the aforementioned pieces, an Etsy shop that has unfortunately since closed. It is fashioned from a very lightweight cotton that never overheats and never seems to wrinkle: perfect for Oklahoma running around. There are no labels, but it is difficult to say whether it’s handmade. A simple metal zipper covers more than half the length of the dress, which hits about mid-thigh.

The deep navy blue, a common hue in my wardrobe, is background to a series of white dots. While the pattern appears to form simple vertical stripes, upon closer inspection one can see that alternating strips are actually strings of daisy-like flowers, complete with stems and petals. After the silhouette and hard-to-miss collar, the flowers are perfect evidence of the classically playful 60s motif.

On that note, the oversized collar is undoubtedly youthful. Almost as long in back as it is in front, it hangs slightly over the shoulders, and its size helps to balance the more narrow bodice of the dress with the a-line structure of its skirt. I’ve had some difficulty in being certain of what to call the style; my first instinct is that it is a Peter Pan collar, but Puritan collars are also sometimes described as this one appears. Seeing it in on myself in the mirror or in photos is like picturing my head between two clouds–as light as I feel wearing vintage.

Visiting my parents is another form of that lightness for me these days, and though right now it doesn’t come quite often as I’d like, it always does the trick. I leave feeling full and with a more complete perspective of the love of family. Theirs was the home I was extending out from in those mid-college years, and those are roots I would never change.

“Make yourself at home” is a blessing of a phrase. It is a reassurance that love is an option and that feeling safe is possible. As I did back then, I’m re-learning the creation of home. I am at home in poetry. In picnics. In perfectly worn dresses. In early morning smiles from my husband.

When graduation rolled around, I wrote on my cap that “a heart has many homes.” It is more true every day.

1960s Bullet Bra Beachwear

Growing up, my brother and I were very fortunate to have a backyard pool for basically every summer I can remember. We would spend long afternoons pretending to be adrift in an endless sea, bouncing up and down in our inner tubes to make small nauseating waves, and hanging over the edge to warm ourselves on the inflatable ring.

I learned how much I enjoyed not just being in the water but actually swimming laps when I got to college. I don’t have the best form, but I’m fast (sometimes) and have a decent amount of stamina (at least more than I do running). I began flashing my ID to the freshman lifeguard and flip-flopping to the locker room when my schedule allowed. It didn’t matter what I looked like doing it, if I’d had an awful morning, or if finals were fast approaching. Everything emptied from me when I swam. I simply allowed myself to be there, to get tired, and to leave feeling refreshed, lighter.

With its minor age-related wear, I hesitate to stress this suit by taking it for a swim, but I believe it would have held up quite well in its day as an active piece. Many modern pieces of swimwear that I’ve encountered are designed less for athletics than they are for style. With wide straps, a relatively high neckline, and fitted bottoms, it’s not hard to imagine taking this one from the sand or pool edge into the water.

This swimsuit is likely from the early sixties, as retains some of the charms of the previous decade–something that was common for early sixties fashion. The one-piece cuts a girlish figure and is conventionally modest, with a fitted micro skirt attached to the bottoms. The back is rather low, coming into a scoop cut just below the waist.

The straps feature two clear buttons that could be readjusted to alter the length, but are more practically just decorative. A series of intricate topstitches and darts fan out from the underbust, helping to add to the hourglass shape. This of course, is also emphasized by what is known as the “bullet bra,” a look that was popularized in the 1940s. While this garment is far from the extreme of pointed bras of the era, it does have a slight conical appearance.

Large peach colored flowers and chartreuse leaves and stems make up the cheerful pattern of the suit. I would consider this style a subtle predecessor to the flower power looks that would have been popular just a few years later in the late 1960s. The colors offer a sweetness that feels, as with the beginning of the decade, like early summer: green grass, lemonade, and youthfulness.

It invigorates and inspires me that I am far from the first woman to enjoy swimming (just read up on Esther Williams). To feel both playful and strong, perhaps even beautiful (in a stringy-haired, wide-eyed, shivering, carefree sort of way) in the water is a tremendous set of feelings. While it may not be the most accessible activity these days, splashing around and propelling through the water holds a special place in my heart and I relish any chance to become so fashionably saturated.

1970s Lilac Grecian Gown

Sometimes a dress has a way of shaking up a wardrobe and boiling it down to its essence. This one simmers in ideas of romance and mystery, flowing fabrics and soft colors, contentedness and joy. It relishes both the old and the new.

As a girl, I long had a curious feeling that I’d never be–Big enough? Old enough?–grown enough to achieve the same glamour I saw in princesses or brides or prom-goers. I’ve come to learn, though, that there is true delight to be found in my own sort of glamour. It is one that is most authentic to who I am, even when–perhaps especially when– branching out.

In my research I’ve found other dresses of the same era that also have the Dessy or Dessy Creations label. However, some of the first search results to appear are a modern line of bridesmaid dresses. I’m curious as to whether there is some relation and, if so, if the brand has reinvented itself with a niche market in the 21st century or if these dresses have always been intended as bridesmaids dresses. It’s not unlikely, but to consider that they are noticeably absent of puff sleeves, crinoline, or all over floral print is impressive.

In contrast, this dress is simple in its elegance but intricate in its minor structuring. The v-neck and surplice bodice are followed by minor pleating at the elastic waist. The skirt then flows into a shape reminiscent of a tulip: the fabric is cut so that it flows from one hip down to the center of the dress to form a wrap skirt with a high-low hem. The cascading at both the hip and where the skirt opens creates a petal effect. The ends of the simple tie belt have a rounded point to them. This is almost identical to the structure of the dress’s shoulder straps, which are created by a layering of two fabrics rather than being one solid piece.

Through my love of vintage, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, not least of all my relationship with my body and my own ideas of body positivity. Among other things, this dress’s softness and arm-baring nature lend it a carefree, accepting quality: something that can at times be difficult to cultivate.

The vintage community, lovely as it is, is simply a more stylized microcosm of the same societal pressures of our own age: emphasis on vintage make-up, vintage hair, vintage undergarments. It’s a very easy world in which to compare oneself to others. That is where my own brand of glamour comes in. Because it’s mine, it is in part defined by a resistance to look like anyone else and tempered by a desire to fit in. It is lankiness, a feeling of imbalance, a fear of appearing mousy. But more than those insecurities it is an air of confidence in my color combinations, a spark of curiosity for historic magnificence, a lightness that has come with practice of letting the right things go. For the better, my glamour is constantly being altered.

Additionally, ideas about “the perfect shape” have changed by slight degrees through the years but have done little other than cause strife for those coming in under, over or right at those perfect measurements. What I’ve learned about my own measurements is that knowing them is entirely utilitarian: one has to have a relatively precise idea of their numbers to shop for vintage clothing, especially online, as many vintage pieces lack size labels; when they are present, they are generally skewed significantly when compared to modern sizing.

Because I love it for its timelessness and that it already defies certain social norms, vintage also allows me to wear garments I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. It’s a good reminder that a sleeveless dress isn’t automatically less classy; that a short dress isn’t necessarily scandalous. There is freedom in knowing that grace–physical or spiritual–isn’t dictated by the clothes on our bodies (or whether or not those bodies have farmer’s tans [see below]) but by what lives in our hearts.