The pleasant surprise I alluded to in the title of this post was not the weather when these photos were taken. If you look closely, you might see a hint of that evidenced by my red hands and nose, and less than relaxed posture. Very much unlike the morning when I got dressed and chose this outfit, by the time we took these photos later that afternoon, a very cold and piercing wind had come up, which made it quite difficult to “act natural”. It’s a bit of a trial to get photos in wintertime. . . but for the sake of the blog, warmth and comfort must come second!
No, the pleasant surprise in this outfit, is my thrifted bolero. I have talked about it many times before, but thrifting really is my favourite way to add unique garments to my wardrobe, and this bolero is no exception. I got it a few months ago at our local thrift store. That secondhand store is a bit of a hit and miss, like most thrift shops in small towns I would guess, as sometimes you come across a real gem, and the rest of the time it’s all 1980’s prom dresses and polyester cardigans. This particular time though, I found this “thrifting treasure” and I didn’t even realize that it was one until I went to wear it a couple of weeks ago. The thrift store price tag was completely covering the label, so it wasn’t until I took the tag off, that I realized that this is a vintage Laura Ashley garment, made in Great Britain! It’s made of 100% cotton, and is also fully lined with cotton. All of the seams are encased, and the edge is finished with piping- it really is a beautiful piece of garment workmanship. And, I didn’t even pay very close attention to it that day as I was a bit in a hurry, and just grabbed it and went! I guess it to be from the 1980’s, because of the style and print, and a quick comparison at labels online also puts it right in the middle of the 1980’s. It’s a bit hard to see in the photos, because black is simply impossible, but it is a floral damask print of solid black over a sparkly lighter black base. Like I said- 1980’s! Some people might not date that as “vintage”, but the majority of my vintage is from the 80’s as it was a great era of making reproductions of earlier styles. (Some good, and some very bad!) And, Laura Ashley is a company that made items that hearkened back to earlier eras, right from day one. (You can read their history here).
So, the moral of my story today is: go thrifting, because you never know what you might come across. And, second, check the labels more closely, because you might have a very pleasant surprise!
Have you ever had a pleasant surprise while thrifting? What was it you found? And do you struggle with getting photos in the cold and dark wintertime?
“But wait!”, you say, “It’s not Winter yet!” And, you are correct that it is not officially Winter yet. We won’t be officially in the Winter season for another 33 days to be exact.
Here though, it is Winter all right, and has been for 18 days now. It started snowing on October 31 (just in time for the little kids to go trick-or-treating out in the snowdrifts) and it hasn’t stopped yet. Well, it hasn’t gone away yet, and every morning when I look out the window, I see more snow to shovel off of my walkway. So, it’s safe to say that Winter is here, for now at least. Despite the fact that Winter comes every year, and that historically we get snow in October, every year I am caught off guard, and there are a few days there where I think to myself, “Wait- what? Snow? How do I dress for this?” And so I just end up throwing a winter coat, and boots and scarf over the top of everything without any real thought as to creating an outfit.
Now, the real question we must ask ourselves, when the temperatures have dropped below zero, is: how do you dress for the cold, when the aforementioned “hobo style” isn’t quite the look that you are going for? I present to you this outfit, which is a testament to the vintage lover’s desire to be dressed in some semblance of fashion, while also desiring to keep at least slightly warm. This is the first “real” outfit I put together since the climes dropped, and everything I wore here was chosen mainly because of it’s insulating properties. So, here are my cold weather tips for those who don’t want to sacrifice style for warmth. Yes, most of these are obvious, but I thought, why not share them anyways?
Turbans are a good cold weather choice, because they can be tied over your ears, and are much prettier than your average toque. I actually wore two scarves here, one tied over my ears and the other over the top for decoration. You can tie a turban with a warmer fabric than a thin silk scarf, and you can also get pre-formed turbans which are knitted, or made of velvet, mohair, wool etc. and those would be very toasty warm! (I don’t have one myself . . . yet!) Other options for keeping your head warm are berets, worn pulled down over your ears like this, or thicker scarves worn over your head and tied under your chin. Sometimes, I wear my scarf and pull it up over my head like a hood, if it isn’t too cold out, but there is a bit of a breeze.
Wool coats are the best. Really they are. If you are at all thinking of going outside in the cold this season, get yourself a 100% wool coat, and you will not regret it. Lots of modern/reproduction winter coats are made of synthetic blends, and they do not even offer a fraction of warmth compared to pure wool. If you can, get yourself a vintage coat, especially a long one, and you won’t be cold. This one, from the 80’s, is made of cashmere and wool, and it is one of the best thrift store purchases I have ever made. On mild winter days, this coat is even almost too warm to wear.
A fur collar. Does a fur collar keep you warm? No, not really, unless it’s a beaver hood or something known for it’s super insulating properties. But, it looks pretty! And it gives the illusion of warmth! And, if you aren’t going to wear fur in the Winter, just when are you going to wear it? I am not wearing it in these pictures, but I actually wore a scarf underneath the collar to keep warm, and threw the fur over top to add the “glamour”.
Nice winter boots. I love my pumps and thin leather shoes, but come winter, unless you want your feet to turn into blocks of ice, winter boots really are a must, and insulated ones are optimum. These boots I bought a few years ago, are lined with a layer of “Thinsulate” (which is essentially useless if you are actually out in a blizzard) but if you are just walking around town, they are great! They keep your feet warmer than shoes, and, they look a lot nicer than those clunky, rubber winter boots (that you will wish you were wearing if you get caught in an actual blizzard).
Layers are good. Here I am wearing several layers: tights, a long wool skirt, (with a slip under that) and a long coat over top. There’s only about 2 inches of exposed leg (covered with tights, but not the skirt and coat, I mean). And on the top; a blouse, then a cardigan, and then the coat. Rather than getting a buffalo robe and swaddling yourself in that (which some days admittedly does seem like a good idea) build up warmth with layers so you don’t end up looking like a stuffed penguin.
Pockets are another wonderful thing. If your hands get cold, even while wearing gloves or mittens, you can just stick them in your pockets to warm them up. I once had a winter coat that didn’t have pockets- it was the worst coat because my hands were always freezing when I wore it! I also once had a coat that only had pockets over the chest. That was an awkward place to have pockets. I know they were supposed to be decorative, but what is the point of having only decorative pockets on a winter coat?!?!
Well, there are my tips for dressing for Winter, brought to you today from one cold Canadian! So, how did this outfit hold up during my walk to church that morning? Well, for the two blocks going south, it was great! The six blocks straight into the wind wasn’t so lovely, however 🙁 But, even though my face got a bit frosty from the wind, I was actually surprisingly warm and it was a relief to take my coat off!
So, what do you do to stay stylish in Winter but also warm? Is it “Winter” yet, where you live, or are you still enjoying Fall?
The majority of vintage wearers have, in their lifetime of wearing vintage, experienced various reactions from members of the general public. Sometimes these reactions can be simply genuine curiosity at an obviously different fashion choice, and sometimes, unfortunately, it can be negative. Probably one of the most universally asked questions, is “Are you wearing a costume?” or something to that effect. In my case (several years ago) it was, “So you are dressed like this . . . why?” – implying that there had to be some kind of external reason as to why I was wearing that 1950’s hat, fur collar, wool coat and high heeled pumps.
My answer: “Because I like it.”
Many people seem to think that anyone who dresses outside of the societal norm, simply must be wearing a costume. Someone wouldn’t be wearing a hat and gloves and a dress like, for real, would they?
I’ve been thinking about this lately, and trying to figure out my thoughts about it. I would suggest that, while I don’t really like the term “costume”, to some extent, anyone who dresses outside of the mainstream, is in fact putting on some sort of specific persona. It is easy to dress in the fashions of the day (look in every store and you’ll find some kind of iteration of the trends) but it is a conscious choice to dress differently than every one else. Whether you are wearing vintage style, goth, rockabilly or any other alternative style, you are saying something about yourself to those who see you.
So what is the difference between dressing in a so called “alternative style” or wearing a costume anyways?
After much thought (OK actually not that much thought, but some discussion with my mom!), I think it all comes down to your reason for wearing it.
How we choose to dress, tells a story about us. Your clothes can tell people, “I’m a rebel”, “I want to blend in”, “I want to be different” or even simply “I like old stuff”.
If someone were to look at me, they might not be surprised to learn that I also like classic novels, painting, antique furniture and old houses. My clothing has given them a glimpse into what kind of person I am; or at least the image that I want to present to the world.
Choosing to dress differently does raise questions, though, and like I said the most common one is, why are you wearing a costume?
A costume is something that is worn for a specific purpose, for a specific time and place, and it is not worn, usually, outside of that event. It is not a reflection of the person who wears it, because the person who is wearing it, has put on a mask, either literally or figuratively.
Wearing vintage, or another alternative style, though, is a lifestyle. At least it is for me, and many others. The decision to wear vintage style, as your “regular” clothes changes it from being a costume that you put on only at certain times, to being an expression of your own style personality. You don’t have to wear vintage 24/7 either, in order for it to not be a costume for you. While it might be a putting on of a persona, it is also a reflection of your own style and personality. To those people who question you, it is a costume to them, because they can’t imagine themselves wearing it; it is foreign and uncommon. To many people it is unheard of that these could be your “real” and “normal” clothes. (But, what is normal anyways?)
When I, and many others, wear vintage styles we are not just trying to be different. There are plenty of styles I could wear that would achieve the same purpose, but would definitely not be “me”. Wearing Steampunk is probably very fun- but it’s not something I would personally choose to do!
And you know what? I sometimes put together an outfit which I think looks great in my head, and doesn’t really come out that way when I wear it. Something is just not right with it, and so it does end up feeling a bit like a costume. This outfit here is one example of an outfit that came out as just too much. To me personally, I would like to stress. Even though others might think, “that’s so you- it’s got a vintage touch, pearls and a hat”- to me, this was a costume.
I look at this outfit, and I know that I was playing dress up. (Which I was; we just wanted to experiment with taking photos in this location, so I grabbed a few things and threw them on) I would never wear this outfit in real life; the twill trousers are far too casual to be wearing with this hat and blouse, and the hat doesn’t go with anything. If I were to tweak this into an actual outfit, I would pair the blouse with navy blue wool trousers or a skirt, my camel coloured blazer to coordinate with the hat, and I would probably take off the long strings of pearls replacing them with a single strand. That’s just me. Someone else might wear this, and they’d love it!
Ultimately, each person must decide for themselves what the line is between “different” and “costume”. Fashion is supposed to be fun, so if you feel like wearing a costume out and about, there’s no one stopping you! Sometimes you just want to dress up! But, if you are trying to determine whether something is clothing for you or whether it’s a costume, here are some questions you could ask yourself:
Do you feel more confident wearing this outfit?
Are you constantly thinking about what people are thinking about your outfit? I’m not talking about shyness, and sometimes feeling a little awkward because you look different. I mean: are you completely uncomfortable because all you can think about is what other people are thinking of your outfit?
Are you absorbed with your outfit and fussing with it constantly? Aka- you don’t actually feel comfortable wearing it. Once you put on an outfit, you should not be preoccupied with it, if it’s just clothes.
Is it an expression of things that you like? Or are you wearing it simply because it’s “vintage”, but not because you actually like it?
Are you just waiting for the moment you can get home and change into something else?
Are you drawn to a certain era or style, but this outfit is just too much? For example, someone might wear 1920’s styles, but they might not dress completely like a flapper with a headband, pearls, fringed dress and all.
Do you enjoy wearing this? Is it fun for you? Is it the right expression of your personality? For the same reason I wouldn’t dress goth, you might not want to dress a certain way either.
Well, I hope that these thoughts may have helped you to think through what defines costume vs. style for you.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this- have you ever been asked if you were wearing a costume?
What do you think is the difference between wearing a costume or just regular clothes?
So, I was going to write this whole post about changing style, and how your style evolves with your circumstances and how my style is going through a bit of change lately… but I am just having no luck with any of that, and as this post was originally planned for yesterday, how about I just skip all that, and show you some pictures instead?
The story behind these photos is that I wanted to do some photos by this brick wall, because this store, which is over 100 years old is closing. It was a family business and no one wanted to run it any more, so they made the decision to close the store. I don’t know what is going to happen to the building, and whether the sign will be painted over. I hope that the sign will be left up, for historical interest, but in the event that it is painted over- I wanted to get some photos first! I have been wanting to get these photos for the past month, but nothing was working. And then on Sunday, I wore my green cape to church, and my new hat, and I kidnapped my sister and made her come and take some pictures- and everything just worked out perfectly.
Sorry there are so many photos- I had a hard time choosing what to share! I’m pretty amazed that we got these photos, actually, since this is the first time I have done such a public photo shoot, and I was a bit nervous about it. Usually we are in the middle of a field, or we find a quiet corner, where no one is around, but for these, we were on the corner of an intersection, and vehicles were driving by and people walking by and wondering why on earth there was a crazy person running about, dressed in a cape and hat, with their own personal photographer! I was glad it was a Sunday afternoon, though, as it was fairly quiet compared to a weekday. 🙂
As far as the outfit goes- this is pretty representative of what I am leaning towards lately for colour schemes and styles- earth tones, 40s inspired, and a bit more pared down, or on the practical side. As for outfit details- I made the cape last winter out of thrifted wool, the hat was a wonderful thrift find this summer, the dress is a secondhand Indian tunic which I turned into a shift dress. (I am not sure if the proper term is Kameez or Kurti- does anyone know?) I love the pattern of the fabric, but it is 100% polyester, which is a killer to wear, hence why I only wear it in the cooler months! And my purse, is the same old trusty one I purchased a few months ago from Top Vintage. So, I guess that is all I have to say about this- I said I had nothing to say, and here I am at 500 words already. 😉
Have you ever done a public photoshoot- or do you try to find out of the way corners, like me? What outfit choices are you feeling drawn to for Fall?