What does ‘Vintage’ mean to me?

Not too long ago, I was informed of the fact that a website called VintageBrighton.com were looking for bloggers to fulfil a brief for them, writing on the subject ‘what vintage means to me’. Being in a massive rush, I skim read the brief ridiculously quickly, and as a result completely misread the word content, managing to write roughly 10x as much as was required. Go me. Anyway, I thought I’d publish my thoughts on my site, as well as directing you towards the site. Vintage Brighton is a great resource for all sorts of information around the South Coast, providing events listings, shop directories, blog posts and features. Check them out, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @vintagebrighton. You won’t regret it. 

Ask any vintage enthusiast the question ‘what was the first piece of vintage you bought?’ and I’m 99.9% sure they’ll all remember. I am no different. It might as well be yesterday that I loped up the stairs of a juice bar-cum-vintage shop in Falmouth, Cornwall. (Look, it was the noughties. Everything was a juice bar!) I was on a family holiday, and was pleasantly bored witless. We embarked on a day trip to Falmouth – I think some sort of maritime museum might have been involved – and on the main drag of the town, I spotted this shop.

I think it was called something like ‘Kitten Caboodle’. I fancied myself as a bit of a vintage lover, despite the tiny technicality of not actually…well, you know, not actually OWNING any of the stuff myself. Now was the time. I was about to be deflowered. I stole across the wooden floorboards, convinced I’d be pegged as an imposter, but no one said anything. I began to grow more confident. I walked from item to item, gazing, stroking, smelling. Oh. Ok, no smelling. Blimey.

I have a little philosophy, which is that in any particular vintage clothing emporium, there will be one item that has been torn from your dreams and has tucked itself onto a hanger for you. Just that one item. The thing that you’ve always desperately wanted, whether you know it or not. It might a 1920s headdress. It could equally be a peter pan collared 60s minidress. Maybe it’s a sweatshirt from the 80s.

It didn’t take me long to find my destiny on that day in Falmouth. It was a romance. I spied her, gleaming under the soft lighting, flirting with me, dripping lazily off her hanger. I stepped closer. She was a 1930s silk Hollywood style floor length dressing gown. And when I say ‘dressing gown’, you are obliged to INSTANTLY banish any ghastly thoughts of towelling, or terry, or God’s forgotten fabrics. This was lace trimmed, creamy, champagne coloured perfection.

I wasn’t in a little shop in Falmouth anymore. I suddenly understood it perfectly, this desperate need for vintage. It made sense of everything that was going on inside me. It linked together my cultural references, my personal codes, the things that were sartorially important for me. I was brought up on a diet of black and white films, theatre productions and furtive readings of glossy magazines. As a child; even as a teenager, I’d felt an aching sadness inside that I would never descend a staircase in a perfectly cut Grecian gown, my lips wine red, my hair tortured and teased into conformity.

I’d never be able to live the life of my screen idols. How could I possibly tilt my champagne saucer to one side, lower my cigarette, and deliver a startlingly brilliant line to my dashing and moustachioed male companion? I couldn’t do it, I simply couldn’t, because all my friends were wearing jeans and drinking Bacardi Breezers. That sort of glamour or lifestyle couldn’t still exist because it would look bizarre. Oh, I was a frightfully narrow-minded teen. I went through a very bad stage of just wanting to conform, so if jeans and alcopops were the way forward, then that was what I should have to resign myself to.

I simply hadn’t realised it was all possible. That I could trip around louchely in my ‘house coat’, draping myself over furniture. I could dazzle in my Grecian gown. I could be Edie Sedgwick, or Marilyn, or a Chekhov character, or Lolita, or ANYONE AT ALL. I wonder if you remember the time when the whole world opened up to you? When you suddenly realised that your childhood dreams were fine – that you really could be whatever you wanted to be? And the best part was that I wasn’t alone. Others shared my dreams too. I knew that I wasn’t different, or wrong, for wanting to live in an England where gin & tonics were perfectly blended and sipped on the lawns of country houses with men in white linen. That ignoring every other sport apart from croquet was not a crime. That fancying men in moustaches is not only acceptable but highly encouraged…

Ultimately, I dress in a carefully considered way. You might see me in a long black coat over a white lace mini dress with some flat boots on, but that isn’t what I’m wearing, actually. I’m actually dressed as Masha from Three Sisters, embarking on a doomed love affair, before hopping off to swinging London for a big of gogo dancing on Carnaby Street. And it doesn’t matter to me that you don’t know that. Because I do.

After purchasing my 1930s gown, I began to curate more. You can’t plan what you’re going to buy when it comes to vintage clothing, because you ever know what you’ll find. But just looking at my wardrobe, I can see the jacket that Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend wore, a 60s minidress that also reminds me inexplicably of Charles II, and a white dress with a blue satin sash that is pure Sound of Music. My clothes make me happy. Each thing I wear means something different to me, and I’m proud to say that vintage clothing has defined who I am today. I’ve finally got my champagne saucers.

In short, vintage has helped make me ‘me’.

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