My love affair with vintage clothing began as a small child when I would play dress-up in my mom’s ‘going away suit’ at least that’s what I used to call it. You know, the outfit that she wore on her wedding day to depart for her honeymoon as the guests threw rice all over her and my dad. A three-piece ‘suit’ (by Carlye nonetheless) cinnamon in color, with a jacket, skirt and ‘dickey’ instead of a full shirt, I loved the look, feel and smell of it. Dress up then, vintage today.
From there I progressed into the coveted hand-me-downs from my two older sisters. Shopping for them was for me a means to an end as most of their purchases eventually ended up in my closet, with or without there knowledge or permission. I couldn’t even wait until some of the items fit properly so I would get out a needle and thread and ‘nip and tuck’ and shorten wherever necessary. The look was a little disheveled but I owned it. Anything to be unique, quirky yes, but most definitely unique.
As a young career woman (ok working girl no, trainee but whose story is it anyway), I enjoyed a brief stint in the world of newer fashions. Each day I would bind myself into one of my man-tailored power suits, a look that made me feel important as I shuffled paper all day, but honestly, a look that would have better ‘suited’ the guy sitting next to me, and head to the office (4-man cubicle). The shoulders pads alone were enough to balance a filing cabinet on, but I owned the look. A welcome departure from the business attire of the 80’s and one of the things I most love about vintage clothing today, especially dresses, is that they are constructed to enhance the female physique, and depending on the decade, this can mean showcasing a curvaceous silhouette (1950s) or sporting fun a long lean body (think mod 60s) giving us the ability to celebrate every inch of us knowing we can be both feminine and intelligent at the same time.
Well, old habits are hard to break and having come full circle, I now find myself back in the closets of others, pulling out the treasures. Some for me, most for you. Each of these items has a history and story to tell, of the women who first wore them, of the places they have been. A tribute to women from another time and place, not too apart from us, but just born into an earlier decade, a different setting, a unique set of circumstances. That is how I see these items, not just for what they are, but for who they represent and for how they make us feel – special, unique, beautiful.
If I were to define vintage it would be a sip of fine wine from my grandmother’s goblet, the lingering scent of tobacco from my grandfather’s pipe, a favorite family recipe, an old re-run of ‘I Love Lucy’. If I were to define vintage clothing it would be a dress that dictates trend from a designer or dressmaker who captured a stylistic moment, it would be a signature piece from a retired designer or a unique item that depicts the socioeconomic climate of its era. Vintage can, but does not have to bear a label, it is of a time when getting dressed was an art form and clothes were constructed, not just made, it is a time when we celebrated our bodies and revealed ourselves from the outside in, when women were demure, yet sexy, temperate, yet sensual, coy, yet poised. It is also fun, exciting, playful and outlandish. Vintage is what you make of it and what it makes of you. So come and discover the world of yesterday and see that while it is not brand new it is not yesterday’s news.
Vintage Virtuosa, more than a boutique, it is a nostalgic journey linking the treasures of yesteryear with contemporary life where fond memories become new again and history eagerly repeats. I am honored you stopped by and hope you will come again and again…..
Ok, so it’s just about the clothes. I can deal with that.
Oh the houses I’ve been in…
I started Vintage Virtuosa over a decade ago almost by accident. A West Coast girl living on the East Coast my fascination with old houses steered me to estate sales on the weekends. From the second I entered my first house, it became not so much about the house, but about the items inside and the life each piece represents. Soon I was loading up my car and driving them home because it wasn’t enough to view these amazing treasures, I had to OWN them. I started with dresses, size and fit the least of my concerns over design, structure, color, texture, I was transformed and transfixed. How could I leave them behind? I needed them as much as they needed me; I wanted to share in the memories, to keep for myself the one thing that had been held on to all these years.
But it really started even earlier than my estate sale days. I come from a family of thrifters. It’s in our blood. It’s what we do for good fun when we girls are all together (and yes the guys can come too but we have rules) we can not be rushed, it can take hours to pour through one thrift store, or meander an outdoor market, or seek out the corner vintage shop. We must touch each piece, imagine when it was worn and by whom, where did she go? What does she look like? What I would give to know her this new idol of mine. I mean really that dress, I love her.
Today my fascination, takes me into the homes of some amazing women. Just listening to their stories gives me the chills. And each one, knowing her dress will be worn to another prom or event, falls in love all over again as she happily passes her best things along to the next generation of adoring souls. It’s a whole circle of life this thing called vintage, much more than a business, it’s a sharing of time and tradition, of joy and happiness of a unique style that one woman can offer to another…a true obsession, it’s my life and it makes me happy.
But I digress. As my collection grew, it became obvious that I needed to share the love so I started the website. Now I’m shipping these beautiful dresses, hats, handbags and jewelry all over the globe. They are well traveled, our dresses, and they attend some pretty awesome parties!
And once inside a house, how do I contain myself to only the clothing. As I ascend the staircase to the bedroom closets my wandering eye searches the dining room, the den, and the living room. As I carry the dresses out, must I walk through the kitchen blind-folded, past all those mid-century artifacts you eat your lunch on everyday? Are those for sale? You can only imagine my basement.
Now I have a store and a website and an etsy page and I do ebay auctions. I thank each of my ladies and they most humbly thank you. Thank you for loving her things, for wearing her dress to another prom, for loving her wedding dress so much you’re now getting married in it, for sharing her memories and making them your own, for adding another exciting chapter. Just…thank you.