Friday, 7 October 2011

A little piece of history

I often like to harp on about the fact that I'm not really a living historian, and mainly just like the clothes of the eras I adore. And the furniture. And the cars. And some of the music... But as my bio over there states, you're really more likely to find me dressed up to the nines doing my shopping, or dancing at an indie night. But though I don't re-enact, I do love thinking about the life of the vintage clothes I wear, and the antiques I own. At heart I'm a bit of a history nerd, really, and investigating the background of places and things can be really interesting. This is why I jumped at the chance of doing a bit of research into the life of King Edward VII for the King's Ginger... and why I have a serious addiction to buying vintage.

 History doesn't have to be serious. Luckily.


Some things just fill me with nerdish glee, though - finding an exact twin of a dress I own is one. Discovering the sewing pattern used to make a hand-sewn vintage frock is a big one, finding a drawing of an exact outfit in a catalogue another. The rarest of these rare gems is to find a note or photo of the original item being worn or used. The latter has never actually happened to me, though I've seen others post about such finds on their blogs.

pattern and frock!

Vintage clothing only goes back so far, and I greatly enjoy exploring the background of much more enduring things, things that have been with us for centuries. Museums are the obvious place to start, but sometimes doing your own digging can be so rewarding. Researching just a tiny proportion of the vast backstory of Kew Gardens, Chiswick House and Brooklands recently was fascinating (and there is so much more to come). If only stone, or statues, or trees could talk! But while we can research the known facts of bricks and mortar, it's unlikely that we'll ever know the actual history of the clothes we buy. This is where imagination comes in!

"Always wear ruffles to do a raffle" - me, 2011.

Just think... what fancy soireés has your sequinned cocktail dress attended? What decadent balls would your gown have been whisked to... and with whom? Your circle skirt might have jived with the cutest boy in town, or been shown off in an all-night cafe with the latest rocking hits on the jukebox. Was the girl who wore your frock the life and soul of the party, a wallflower, a career girl or a homebody? Might your Forties suit have been worn by a war bride on the happiest day of her life? What chores could your housedress have endured? The funny thing is, if you have a relatively intact one, it probably hasn't seen all that much housework action, for if it had, it would be in nearly such good nick! Since we'll usually never know exactly who wore our vintage, then just imagine the most fabulous person you can, and channel her (or him) every time you wear it. I do just that – from wearing little or no makeup with a 1930s housedress, to putting on a brave burst of colourful and patterned fabric (as well as red lipstick and hair adornments) when I need a confidence-booster. And when you're passing your precious things on in time to come, consider including a photograph of yourself wearing them, dancing or having fun... I guarantee it will fascinate future generations of vintage wearers!

 Classy.


Sadly, many of the things I wear on a day-to-day basis won't last more than a few years, let alone a few decades. But my well-made repro frocks, my sturdy jumpers and my lightly-worn party frocks and gowns will. I know through all the adventures, parties, dreams, tears and laughter I've given all these garments some great stories... if only they could tell them!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

25 comments:

  1. Really interesting - I love imagining who wore my old necklaces and jackets...
    S&R xxx

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  2. If only they could talk, indeed! That's one of my favorite things about vintage clothing (well and furniture, curios, you name it). You wonder what stories things could tell! Some of my favorites are hand-sewn vintage pieces. Some impeccably sewn, some a slight bit slap dash. All fabulous. I have a handmade housedress from the 40s that has a goofy hem in one part and a bit of a ruffle sewn on slightly askew. Obviously the woman who sewed it didn't mind, and neither do I! It didn't occur to me until your post that she probably didn't much care fore housework either since it was in pretty good condition, come to think of it... I'm thinking she and I would have had a lot in common. ;)

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  3. I don't own many proper vintage dresses - but brooches and jewellery - well I have a fair bit. I love thinking about who used to pin them to a dress or jacket and go off on the town, or join a long que for something that was invariably all gone.

    Lovely post me dear :)

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  4. Hi Fleur, great post! I just started my own blog as a result of this very issue: I was given a huge amount of vintage clothes and fabric that belonged to the mother of a friend of mine. The bonus was that he could also tell me little things he remembered about certain pieces. I'm trying to (slowly) chronicle it all on the blog, and would be honoured if you'd take a look sometime :)

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  5. I am such a history nerd. The only new furniture we have in our house is a set of bookshelves and a couple of lamps. How cute to include a photograph with vintage clothing! I would love to know where my stuff's been. I'm lucky to have a few of my great-grandmother's high heels since she doesn't wear them anymore. Thankfully, she kept them in great shape, so I'll be wearing them for a long time!

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  6. Lovely post! And I agree with you on all parts. I love discovering a new place (like the building in my last post) and then researching them and eventually finding what you're after! Makes me feel a little like a detective, hehe.

    I love the idea of putting a picture of you wearing an outift when you give it away, I may just start doing that when I next drop off stuff at the local charity ;)

    I love imagining what the dresses have seen before me, one shop owner on the Isle of White actually knew where every piece in her shop had come from, and where they'd been worn, as she bought them from all the old ladies on the Island!

    Em
    xxx

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  7. I am lucky enough to have a piece of vintage I know the provenance of! It's a 1940s day dress which belonged to my great grandmother, my grandma remembers her wearing it and has told me how my great grandmother used to wear a simple outfit with an apron for cleaning and cooking until mid afternoon, then get dressed up, do her hair and put on makeup for when my great grandfather returned home. I think it sounds quite romantic, and they were madly in love until they died and had 7 children so it must have worked!

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  8. Very well said! I have a couple 60s dresses - a day dress, a cocktail dress, and a fully-covered sequined sweater dress, yee! - that I often wonder about, especially the sequined one. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

    The same is definitely true for old photographs, maybe moreso. I always think "who are these people?" and "what were they doing/thinking/feeling this day?"

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  9. I think this is one of my favorite posts you've written, Fleur! :) I too am a bit of a history nerd and my adoration of vintage definitely plays to that intereset. Last year I lucked out at a local estate sale with buying up as much 40s and 50s pieces from a lady's closet. She happened to be the same size as me (I'm guessing by the fact that I fit into most of what I bought!), and seemed to be attracted to similar colors and motifs in her clothes. I often wonder, as I'm going about the city, if these clothes saw the same streets and place I'm visiting--way back when. :) Kind of fun!

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  10. Lovely post! The stories vintage gowns tell really is part of their allure to me, I can't resist a good tale. xoxo

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  11. Thanx for the tips, and stories :) You're amazing!

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  12. Another lovely blog post, Ms. Fleur.

    I hadn't thought about the "history" of vintage clothing before, but I will now! I often find myself imagining the family that might have lived in one of the historical homes in our area. The character in the older houses, the architecture, is so fascinating.

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  13. What a lovely post! This is exactly what I ponder about too. Not just with my vintage clothes and accessories, but with places and buildings and so on. Ever since I was little I've loved old things, and visiting castles is something i love to do! When I walk around in those impressive buildings I always imagine what it was back in the day when they were inhabited and LIVING! I wonder how far scientists have come in the research of time travel? Isn't it about time they came of with a way of actually going through with that soon?! :)

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  14. I have always thought about things like that, ever since I was a child. I have some Edwardian/teens era blouses and often wondered who owned them. For some reason shoes fascinate me, wondering where they went, where they danced, did she see a sweetheart off to war from a train platform in them?
    My friend and I are always nosing around the vintage clothing on ebay and e mailing each other things, wondering where that wonderful old party dress went in it's day, was a she a raving flapper in society or just scandalising the population at a village dance.
    I found a tablecloth in a charity shop a while back, it wasn't until I washed it, and looked at it drying on the clothes horse that I realised it had a date crocheted into the edging. I can't make out if it's 1918, which would make sense or 1915, it does look a bit like a five. But the edge has been sewn on the wrong way round, that's why I didn't see it at first. I often wonder if it was just an accident or was it deliberate for some reason, and who made it.

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  15. I just bought a 50s pencil skirt, and when I stuck my hand in the pocket I found a scrap of paper with a name and phone number (I'm guessing from the 50s since her writing was like my Nanna's!) I wonder if it was a new gal-pal she met at work or college...

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  16. I LOVE this post....and I agree with LandGirl1980: finding little notes indicating provenance/history of our vintage is the bee's knees.

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  17. What a great post! Although I don't have any vintage clothing, I do have lots of vintage housewares and some jewelry along with vintage cookbooks and the like. I like to imagine about the woman before me who owned some of the party stuff I have and how she would have planned the party or decorated etc.

    http://60yearslate.blogspot.com/

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  18. I love both vintage and second hand for just these reasons!

    I actually know the background of some of my household bits, having inherited them. One of my aunts was a real character and I love imagining the parties - from canapes in the 50s to cheese-and-wine in the 80s- her glasses and home decor contributed to...and survived!

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  19. I love finding old sewing patterns or fabrics. I get a kick out of making my own unique clothes too.

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  20. My lovely husband is a photographer and likes to think about the people and places photographed by his vintage cameras in the past. He once bought a gorgeous old polaroid camera on ebay, it came in it's original packaging with the receipt and guarantee and, spookily, was originally purchased on his birthday way back when, in Berlin (his favourite place)! Those two were meant to be together!

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  21. I love thinking about the history of clothes. I love the hand stitches in some of my vintage pieces and can imagine someone sitting and carefully sewing them. When we got our vintage VW camper, I was also delighted to discover a log book with lots of information about when it was originally made and where it had been.

    Such a shame that many things today are not made to last.

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  22. Pretty Lady!
    http://www.offbroadwayboutique.com/

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  23. Great post! Oh if our dresses could talk. :)

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  24. lady is looking beautiful and stunning.
    I like the expression of the lady in all photos and out fit is obliviously very good.

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