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.

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