Monday 22 February 2010

History Lessons

Shift dress and boots (Vintage finds)   

The romantic in me ponders the history of every vintage garment I own. How much did it cost? What was the occasion it was bought for, where was it worn to, who first owned it and why was it given away?
What happened to the lady who donated 11 1960's shift dresses to last weeks' jumble sale? Is she no longer with us or did she just decide it was time to let go of something she'd kept for over forty years? Where did she wear them? Did she feel happy wearing them?
Most of my clothes have a story behind them. I can pull a dress from my wardrobe and recall the excitement I felt when I discovered it, where I found it and the places it's been. I love the fact that vintage clothing has many incarnations and a palpable history.

This eBay maxi dress came with a letter from the seller recalling how she fell in love with the dress after glimpsing it in a shop window. She religiously saved her wages from her Saturday job in Van Allan to afford it and wore it to the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival where it shared the very same air as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.
I've worn this dress to lots of music festivals, it's been to India three times and I even wore it when I met my hero, Michael Lang, organiser of the 1969 Woodstock festival.

This beautiful monogrammed vanity case bought at a car boot sale came complete with some history. In amongst the heaps of vintage buttons, broken jewellery and embroidery silks I found the previous owner's employment contract, appointing her manager of  Beatties' "Gown Department" in 1949. There were also wedding invitations, a hair dressing appointment card and greetings cards from the same era. Well worth the £3 price tag.

My Mum bought me this fascinating book from a charity shop.The author has a lifelong love of vintage clothing and recalls the story of her life through the items in her wardrobe.

Amazon Link


  1. That was lovely, I was thinking as I was reading that you should write a book!
    Vicki xx

  2. I love old clothes and things with a bit of wear & tear,and often wonder about the history behind them.I hope I am adding to their story in a positive way by wearing and enjoying them.

  3. That maxi is one of the prettiest dresses that I've ever seen, the pattern is stunning & the cut is so beautiful. Getting the history of a garment is such a lovely thing; it adds dimension & depth to something that is otherwise really rather trivial…pieces of fabric held together by stitching. For me the history is the added bonus you get by buying vintage.
    I just don’t get excited in the same way when I run my hand along a rail of identical frocks in a high street shop, regardless of how gorgeous they are. The history is what excites me, the invisible motley texture woven into a piece of clothing, its previous wearer, its past escapades, the places its been…the sum of which transforms a dress into something much more than just a dress.

  4. Still very jealous of those dresses! Is great that items invoke such memories and hold great stories :)

  5. What a great post!
    I love the history behind vintage items, the word vintage gets thrown around all the time now but these items truly are, they have history, stories to tell.
    The maxi dress is beautiful and the shift dresses keep getting better.

    x x

  6. I love the story behind that maxi dress - what a great thing for the seller to do. The vanity case makes me sad though - surely that's got to be someone's children getting rid of their things? :(

    Have you read My Mother's Wedding Dress by Justine Picardie? It's a beautifully evocative book.

  7. Hi there-you really have such a fabulous eye for quality, gorgeous items. I adore your monogram case and maxi dress, truly wonderful finds!!

  8. How wonderful is the story behind the maxi dress? And how wonderful is the dress itself?! I just love everything about this posts - your outfits, your words, your overall message. Love. xx

  9. PS - You've got eagle eyes... yes, I fell off the wagon! :(

    More on that tomorrow, however. I was ALWAYS planning to admit all... promise!

  10. This absolutely sums up perfectly why i love "vintage". I actually hate using that word, before I used to just say old!

    The history makes me feel so involved and becoming a part of an item that has lived for longer than me is such an amazing thing!

    Thank you for this post, it really is the anti-dote i needed when I was starting to get a bit disillusioned by all the fashion-hype for vintage clothing.


  11. Wow - its great when you get to uncover the history and the love begin your collection, it gives them a greater sense of belonging.

  12. wow, what a lovely post.... it sums up just why I love vintage items! xx

  13. I agree with Vicki, you've defo got a book that needs writing.

    Love the maxi dress and that vanity case is beautiful.

  14. Awww, I really love having a closet that tells me the life I had just by looking inside it. It's like a biography that goes beyond words. Lovely!!


  15. what an amazing find on that vanity case! And...are those purple tights?! I love them!!


  16. Fabulous pictures !
    And of course, I would adore to swap with you !!! So cool ! Thank you my dear friend !

  17. I think that's exactly what is precious about vintage shopping ... there's all that history in every little item you get!

  18. Inspiring post and sums up what 'vintage' means to me. The maxi dress story gave me butterflies, what an amazing life it has had. Got to say as well that I am completely loving that cute little chair, nice to see some more of your vintage interior finds as well

    Roo xx

  19. wow, I love that maxi dress and the history behind it how amazing and exciting! And that case how interesting to find parts of somebodys life! I find it really fascinating .. I remember as a kid finding a box of stuff in the attic of the house we moved into I sat up there for hours looking through it all, I think Im just nosey!!

  20. I love the tights..gorgeous color

  21. What a wonderful post! It warms my heart that you know the story behind that maxi dress and you have honoured it's heritage! The monogrammed vanity case you found is a treasure trove! I've long felt the same about vintage clothing, the sense of history and the unique makes me happy, especially when I find an item that fits perfectly, you wonder who it was that had the same body shape and sense of colour, all those years ago.
    You're an inspiration, Vix!
    Eddus xxx

  22. Aw, I love that the lady who sold the maxi dress passed on it's story to you as well :)

  23. Don't it just give you so much more pleasure to know a little of the history. I'm the same with books... I love really old books that have gift labels or dedications inside them. And I can't even recall the amount of notes and shopping lists I've found.

    Oh and that maxi dress is divine on you. x

  24. Gosh, what lovely comments! Thanks for reading my blog, I appreciate it sooooo much.


Thanks for reading and for leaving a message. Please don't be anonymous, I'd love it if you left a name (or a nom de plume).

Lots of love, Vix