1960s Nautical Mod

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One of my most loved and frequently rotated vintage dresses was the first non-formal piece to enter my collection. I snagged it from my local thrift store for a whopping $4 in the chill of fall last year, eager to wear it in the warmer months.

With its incredible fit, adorable details, and fantastic construction, it’s changed the way I think about wearing vintage in an every-day setting.

This “mod” nautical-inspired piece dates to the 1960s. Without much information on the Lois Young Dallas label, it’s difficult to say for sure, but I would place this in the early to mid-60s, based on trends of the decade.

My guess is that the material is a sort of poly-cotton blend, as it has some stretch and is thick but rather breathable. It features a mock neck, darted bust, and nipped-in waist. The dress also hits just above the knee, a comfortable length for someone like myself with a bit of height (an added benefit of vintage and a post for another day).

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The stripes of the dress’s top are matched with a more subtle pattern in the skirt, one composed of tiny diamond shapes. The colors are vibrant but not flashy or overwhelming: the off white complements the bright red, even blending with it in the skirt to create an almost coral color.

The skirt itself is an interesting feature of the dress, with a wrap-like pleat over the left thigh. This adds a three-dimensional aspect to the garment, as do the three anchor-embossed (non-functional) buttons down the pleat.

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The dress showcases both youth and class: an interesting and appealing combination that has, in a way, set a precedent for many of my future finds.

My closet is now home to a number of vintage dresses that feature personality-filled details, quirky patterns, and, above all, uniqueness. From polka dots and accent bows, to pointed collars and frilly hems, my casual vintage pieces have given way to refined yet subtly playful looks.

For a dress that is likely at least 50 years old, this one is in rather remarkable, even pristine, condition, boasting unflawed fabric and a perfect zipper and hook-and-eye closure. The one repair I’ve had to make to the dress–an easy fix–was the re-stitching of two separated seams at the underarm. (Who doesn’t love a good tree climb?)

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While it may be slightly constricting—mostly in the shoulders, hence the ripped seam—this doesn’t take away from away from the fact that it’s an incredibly wearable piece. While it obviously looks to be in its element when surrounded by water, it certainly wouldn’t be out of place in the classroom or in a relaxed office environment either. 

This is precisely how such a remarkable $4 find took vintage to new heights for me. Gone were (and are) they days when garments of decades past were restricted to old photos and television shows. Vintage pieces, even those with a theme such as this dress, no longer seemed costume-y or out of reach.

Instead, vintage–beginning with this dress of course–became inviting, calling attention to detail and individuality. They now are pieces that have become incorporated into my “modern” wardrobe confidently and happily and with a beautiful fit.

Accessible, joyful pieces will never go out of style, and to me, this dress is proof of that.

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