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?
(OK, I seriously just spent about an hour trying to come up with a better blog title than this, but this is the best I can come up with. And now that it’s 11:00 pm, I’m going to say that’s good enough. And goodnight!)
I had every intention of taking this turquoise shirtwaist dress out of my closet and selling it. But I thought I should do one photo shoot with it before it was gone forever. And then I saw these photos and . . . decided that I will be keeping this dress after all! I found it in a thrift shop two years ago and it fits like a dream. I think it is an original 1950’s dress, although it could have been made later perhaps too, and I believe it is a home-sew, as there is no tag.
So, why would I want to get rid of this dress?
Well, I have owned it for a few years, and I have worn it perhaps. . . five times. I never reach for it when I go to get dressed, and almost every time I wear it, I don’t like how I have styled it (which is why it hasn’t appeared on the blog before). It just never seems to work with anything. Since my wardrobe is full of warm neutral tones, a vibrant dress like this one stands out like a sore thumb. Especially since I’m trying to create a more “cohesive wardrobe”.
So how do you reconcile those “problem” garments you have, which don’t seem to go with anything or work with the rest of your closet? Here are some tips I literally just invented right now while looking at these photos (and trying to decipher why this outfit “worked” this time around), but the tips worked for me when I wore this problem dress, so maybe they’ll help you too! 😉
Resist the temptation to over-accessorize.
I think one of the hallmarks of vintage style is the accessories. While modern girls would call a t-shirt, jeans and a scarf an ensemble, vintage girls won’t consider it complete until you’ve got a hat, purse, gloves, stockings, shoes, necklace, earrings, scarf, ring, and parasol. OK, maybe not all of those things at once, but you see what I mean! The problem comes in when you are trying to accessorize a problem garment, and none of your regular accessories match very well. This is when paring down the number of accessories might be a good idea. I always tried to pair this shirtwaist with a matching purse, belt, shoes, hat, jewellery and . . . I discovered that it is just too much. Nothing seemed to “go” and the style of this dress actually works well with a relatively small number of accessories. And I don’t have to worry about looking overdone. My accessories choices for this outfit consisted only of brown laceup shoes, a cognac belt, and (though you can’t even see them in the photos) my pearl earrings. Simple, and definitely not overdone.
Try sticking with one accent colour, or shades of the same colour.
This time I chose my brown lace up flats and a cognac belt. Keeping the accessories to one neutral colour, and shades within a hue, allows the dress to stand out. The dress is bright and it doesn’t need more colour to go with it. Of course, I could have chosen a bright colour such as fuchsia, which would look amazing with this turquoise colour, but that would not have been very “me”. Choosing brown accessories made this bright outfit not feel like too much of a deviation from my regular style. Conversely, if you are wearing a neutral outfit and are having trouble choosing what to pair with it, try one brighter colour such as mint green or royal blue. The effect is just as striking, and never overdone. And it is very “vintage” in style as well, as in past eras women were very fond of coordinating outfits!
Wear what you love, even if it doesn’t “fit” the rest of your wardrobe.
Part of the reason of why I wanted to get rid of this dress, I fully admit, is because it doesn’t go with the rest of my wardrobe. I would seriously love to have a picture perfect wardrobe, where everything blends seamlessly on a garment rack and you don’t have clashing pieces getting in the way when you want to take an instagram photo. 😉 However, I do have a few pieces that “clash” and kind of highjack that plan, because I don’t want to get rid of them. When I think about it logically though, why do all of my clothes need to match? If I love something, why can’t I keep it? Of course I should keep it! Wear what you love, regardless of whether it goes with the rest of your wardrobe. Having a cohesive wardrobe is a great goal, and is one that I am still working towards with my new purchases, but for the garments I already own, there is no reason to get rid of everything. And if I want to take an instagram photo, I can just take the clashing dress out of the closet, can’t I? 😉
Before you give up, take a photo first.
It might seem silly, but when you look at a photo of your outfit, you’ll be able to see what is going wrong with your outfit. Perhaps in real life those pinks look like they go well together, but when you look at a photo, you’ll realize that you should really pair the dress with blue, for a knockout look. Or, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see a photo of your outfit, and you see everything that is going right with it! Perhaps you thought that your outfit was really unflattering, but when you saw a photograph, you realized that it actually fit you quite well, and you just needed to step away from the critical three-way mirror! And maybe, like me, you’ll take a photo and realize that it’s not the dress that is the problem, it’s that all of the pairings you tried before were not working because you simply needed to get rid of half of the accessories!
I think that by following these tips, this dress will see more use; I’ve already worn it once since these photos were taken! And I hope they can help you too with your “problem garments”.
Do you have any “problem garments”? How do you decide what to pair with them? Also, I don’t tend to wear very many brights, so what do you wear with bright colours?
This is the sort of outfit I would imagine a “modern” girl wearing, if she were trying to dress in a vintage style. Or the sort of thing that Vogue magazine would style, if they were doing a series on classic styles of the past. It has a sort-of vintage feeling, with the full skirted silhouette, the structured handbag, the classic button down shirt, and even to some extent the head wrap, but at the same time, it feels very inauthentically “vintage”. The style of the shirt, with the contrast placket, the geometrically patterned silk scarf from India, the feather earrings and the strappy sandals, all expose it as a modern ensemble that is pretending to be vintage.
I have come to realize in the past year or so, especially since starting my blog, that I am not a diehard vintage wearer. It sounds kind of bad when I say it like that (especially since this is supposed to be a “vintage” blog, after all) but I think it is completely true of where my style has evolved to. A few years ago, I did the whole vintage thing- every outfit was easily recognizable as a specific era. I wore hats to coordinate with every outfit, and always made sure that my purse and shoes matched. Even when I worked in a hardware store, I would wear 1940’s workwear inspired ensembles, and styled my hair to coordinate. However, in the past year or so, I have started drifting away from that.
Margaret of Denise Brain Vintage recently featured me in a post on her blog, about different kinds of vintage wearers. You should hop over and read both of her posts, here and here, as they are very good reads. When I read her post; I had a revelation! She had completely hit the nail on the head! Her description of my vintage style was spot on correct! (are there any other analogies I can use here? . . .) But really, isn’t it funny how someone else can see so clearly what you haven’t been able to successfully articulate yourself?
I have come to discover, that while I absolutely love styles of the past, and have ever since I was a child, I will never be that person who is always dressed head to toe vintage. Sometimes I just happen to dress in all vintage, or vintage inspired and you can pick out a discernible era, but the majority of the time, I feel most comfortable in clothing that nods towards vintage, but isn’t necessarily representative of one entire era or look. I’ll easily throw a 1960’s pillbox hat, with a 1950’s skirt, and a modern shoe. Or a 1950’s skirt, with a t-shirt, loafers and no hat or hair accessory. Almost everything I wear could be described as “classic”, but I don’t necessarily pair things together that “should” go together. Sometimes I put things together and discover that it was an absolute failure.
I want fashion to be fun.
While I admire those who wear vintage, or vintage inspired looks, like the “time travelers” mentioned in Margaret’s post, I am not 100% comfortable wearing that. I don’t feel like me when I do. Instead I feel trapped in a box, being forced to choose between vintage and modern, instead of happily marrying them together like I am wont to. And, this doesn’t mean that I don’t love vintage- I do!
I love fashion, both vintage and modern, but my main concern with choosing an item should not be whether it is vintage, and fits into the “vintage aesthetic”. It should be whether I personally love it. I used to buy things just because they were old, without truly thinking about whether I actually liked them. (and then I ended up with a lot of things in my wardrobe that I didn’t actually like.) There is a lot of terribly ugly vintage out there, and just because something is old does not mean that it is instantly valuable. It might be valuable to someone else who appreciates it, but that doesn’t mean it is valuable to me. There is also a lot of vintage and reproduction that is quite nice. . . for someone else. Just because everyone else likes something doesn’t mean you should too.
I guess the main point of what I want to say is, at the end of the day: fashion should be fun. What is fun for you, is not necessarily what is fun for everyone else. But, if you choose to wear what you love, without worrying about where it falls on the “vintage spectrum” it will end up being great. Or at least you’ll be very happy with it! If your closet is full of things that you love and enjoy wearing, whatever “era” they are, you can grab anything out of your closet and be pleased with it.
Like this shirt I am wearing here, I saw it at the thrift store and I thought it was pretty. The rayon fabric is nice, and the navy blue with the lighter blue goes surprisingly well with a lot of what I have in my wardrobe. Just because it isn’t a true vintage style, didn’t mean that it wouldn’t work in my wardrobe. I wasn’t going to pass it up, just because it is modern!
So, I guess this post is a bit rambly; it’s just been something I’ve been thinking of lately. Am I going to “give up vintage style”. Nope- and I don’t see myself ever doing so. In fact, I suppose I have been dressing this way for a long time, and I’ve touched on it before too, I just didn’t realize that there was a term for it. But now, thanks to Margaret’s post, I know I’m a proud vintage mixer! 🙂
Do you like to mix modern and vintage? Or do you tend to dress strictly either vintage style or modern style? Maybe you don’t fit into either- hop over to Denise Brain Vintage and read her posts- what kind of “vintage wearer” are you? I’d love to know!
I just got back from a short holiday in Calgary, and while I enjoyed my time in the city, it’s good to be home again. I actually grew up in a town on the outskirts of Calgary, so it was strangely like “coming home”, but also different than I remembered, since it’s been 10 years since I moved away!
My friend Chantelle and I took a trip to the city for a few days to visit a friend of ours who is working at Heritage Park for the summer. We had a great time visiting the park, as it has been close to 15 years since I last visited, and Chantelle had never visited. It was fun day stepping back in time, not only to the history of Canada in the 1800’s, but also stepping back in time to my own childhood! The best thing about a historical park is really that nothing changes- the one room schoolhouse was exactly as I remembered it from when I was in Grade Three. 🙂
I wanted to share some photos from the trip right away, before I get distracted and move onto other things. I have shared some of the photos I took on my phone already on instagram, but I also took a lot of photos with my camera, which I’ll share here.
Today’s post includes the photos of my outfit at Heritage Park. These are the only outfit photos I got while I was away, and they were taken at the Hudson Bay Trading Post replica. I look completely out of place in my 1950’s styled outfit, but there were no crowds of people here, so it was a good place to take some photos.
In the photos, does my hair seem to have a mind of it’s own, despite being styled that morning? Yes! Is my blouse rumpled, disheveled and coming untucked? Yes! Is my necklace crooked? Yes! Are my feet tired of walking and my shoulders sore from carrying around my heavy purse (with camera inside)? Yes! Is the sun in my eyes, and casting strange and harsh shadows all over? Yes! Do these photos represent real life, where I am completely living in the moment, and having a great time spent with friends? A resounding yes!
Even though these aren’t great fashion plate blogger photos, they are a great memory of a fun time spent at Heritage Park, and I would much rather spend a fun time with friends then go about worrying whether my necklace was straight.
Regarding the outfit details, there’s that homesewn tan skirt again, but this time paired with my brown lace up flats, a new thrifted white peasant blouse top, a stack of Indian bangles from Ten Thousand Villages and my new purse from Top Vintage. I really debated purchasing this purse, since online shopping and I don’t mix well, but in the end I decided that since it is basically the purse I have been searching for my entire life, I would go ahead and get it. After a small hiccup, which was resolved very nicely by their customer service, I can say that I am very glad that I did get it. It was an investment bag for sure, but the timeless and vintage shape suits my style, and it goes with almost everything I own. Although, for future reference, I will not bring it on a holiday (even though I love it!) with the thought of being able to carry my camera around in it. It was simply too heavy to have on a holiday even with the shoulder strap, and it was a real pain (both figuratively and literally) to lug around for three days with no relief. Next time I will bring a cross body bag, or a backpack. But aside from that detail, it was a great holiday, and I am sure that the purse will serve me well for purposes other than vacations!
Have you ever visited Heritage Park, or any other kind of historical village? Do you worry about your outfits, and getting outfit photos while you are on your holidays?