me-made: the name on everybody’s lips

How better to celebrate paschal rebirth than by honoring the 20th century’s first fashion revolution? I’ve been meaning to make a ’20s dress for approximately ever. With Easter Sunday’s forecast in the 80s and humid, I definitely needed something breezier than last year. I started this dress on Holy Saturday (…I know) and finished it at the eleventh hour. I’m not ashamed to admit I attended church with an unfaced neckline.

Which seems totally counterintuitive – you’d think a shift-style dress would take all of, like, forty-five minutes, right? Well, I thought so too. I used one of the “one-hour patterns” popular in the ’20s and repopularized by historical bloggers. Six hours later, I was…almost done. Granted, a lot of that was pinning and laying out the sash edging, which was my own choice. But it turns out that a cut like this, on my particular figure, is actually much harder to perfect than a slimmer ‘40s or ’50s style. To properly skim the hips and thighs, the fabric ends up way too boxy on top. ’20s patterns do not respect the booty.

Part of it, I think, is that the ’40s and ’50s are so unabashed about being heavily stylized. It’s okay to look “too done”, because meticulous attention to detail was in vogue at the time. But the ’20s were largely about countersignaling that kind of effort. Your ideal flapper looks tousled and flowing, like she just threw on any old thing and somehow made it magical. So my ’20s dresses aren’t allowed to show the work I put into them. I have to make the pleats look like they just happened to fall that way, which is a much bigger pain in the ass than just calling a pleat a pleat.

I haven’t found a great solution yet, but – frump and all – I actually really like this dress. It doesn’t match what I’ve been taught to consider flattering, but that’s beside the point: it’s period, and looking period is a much bigger ego boost than looking proportional. A big part of historical costume is learning to be comfortable with weird standards of beauty. You can’t embody, say, an ancient Roman courtesan if you’re hyperfocused on how silly a painted unibrow feels. You can’t pull off Elizabethan if you’re embarrassed to show off your forehead.

My coat and shoes were both delightful thrifted finds. The shoes ($6!) aren’t T-straps, but they matched the dress too perfectly to resist. The coat is actually ’60s, which has never been my favorite era, but the silhouettes have quite a bit in common with the ’20s. At this point, with 1920 almost 100 years ago, it’s easier to style ’60s pieces in a ’20s way than to find authentic antique clothing.

Dress: made by me, inspired by Festive Attyre’s version

Coat: ’60s, thrifted

Hat: ’30s, Barge Canal Market

Everything else: gifted or thrifted

the greatest generation

You ever stop for a minute and feel sorry for all the vintage collectors yet to come?

It occurred to me the other day how lucky I am to have a solid collection, because now? In 2017? Dior’s New Look is seventy years old, for Pete’s sake. World War II is almost eighty. We persist in thinking of “midcentury” as “fifty years ago”, but it’s as old as our grandparents. Some of my older pieces are already on life support.

Even in the past couple of years, Etsy results for “forties dress” and “fifties dress” have gone way, way down. Anecdotal evidence, sure, but part and parcel of something undeniably true: midcentury vintage is dying out. Pre-midcentury – let’s not even go there. Most ’20s and ’30s pieces probably belong in museums now, not on human bodies. And it makes me wonder what the vintage scene will become over the next few years. I’m so fortunate to own as much ’40s and ’50s vintage as I do, and I can’t help but feel sorry for girls who are just breaking into the culture. The odds are just short of dismal that they’ll have the pickings we did.

How do you think limited availability will shape vintage style in the coming years? Do you think pinups and midcentury dames will turn to the burgeoning repro industry, or do you think they’ll transition to later eras? Some of both? Most of us vintage lifestylers have a reproduction piece or few, but as for the diehard bunch who swear off fast fashion – I’m curious. Will there be more of a market for homesewn originals? (Fingers crossed! I could always use a few bucks.)

Until then, though – we’ll make do and mend, just like our forebears taught. We’ll treasure the pieces with life in them yet. We’ll toast the trappings of the greatest generation.

Dress: ’40s, gift from Mom

Hat: ’30s, Barge Canal Market

Gloves: Mainly Vintage

Shoes: Old Gold

Everything else: thrifted

 

unim(peach)able

I bought this dress (only $20!) last fall in a fit of post-season pique, and I confess I was disappointed upon its arrival. Its listing photos looked much more orange than the dress itself turned out to. As a rule, I’m not too fond of peaches and pinks. My skin tone has a yellow base; in the wrong light, a pastel dress will turn me into walking jaundice. I stashed this dress away all through autumn and winter, tacitly planning to sell it when the time was right. And then last week I put it on when nothing else was clean, and…this happened.

Turns out this dress is just orange enough to tip the scales from “sallow wench” to “porcelain goddess”. I’m thanking those lucky stars I didn’t chuck it when I had the chance, because hello summer mainstay. It’s so soft, too. The kind of softness you just don’t find anywhere but in the folds of a ’50s cotton dress. Y’all know what I’m talking about.

Dress: ’50s, Siren Call Vintage

Coat: ’50s, Barge Canal Market

Hat: ’40s, thrifted

Gloves: Mainly Vintage

Everything else: thrifted