I was given a vintage dress for my birthday. It was lovely – a ‘50s style in a gold brocade pattern, wide skirt, a cinched waist, a delicate sweetheart neckline, and …it didn’t fit.
Attempting to zip myself into it, I actually caught the side of my flesh on the way up.
“Ouch!” I cried, before actually, you know, crying. Being too big for the clothes that you expect to fit is always discouraging, though maybe more so when you’re a size zero? Maybe not, but I can tell you it felt pretty freaking terrible.
I was given the name of the store, a gift receipt, and an unsympathetic shrug (poor you! so little, but not SO little!) and sent on my way. To exchange this dress, I was going to have to get out of my shopping comfort zone. I’ve talked before about how I’m not really into vintage – it smells funny, you never know if things are going to fit (as evidenced by the above fat-pinching fiasco), and sometimes – often times? – you look like you’re on your way to a costume party.
The shop where the dress had been purchased is run like a speakeasy, with hours that seem to shift with the blowing wind, or at least at the owner’s fancy. The store is “no men allowed,” I was told, to account for the lack of changing rooms. A room full of women chit-chatting while casually disrobing? Sounds like a Nora Ephron movie – fun to some, torture to others. Blame it on my lack of team sport participation growing up; I’m just not really a big fan of changing in front of other ladies. Maybe some day I’ll come to terms with that much nakedness, but that time has not yet come.
So it’s safe to say I went in with less than high hopes. Then, after steeling myself up for all that nakedness and funky-smelly clothing, I arrive to the second-floor shop, tucked away on a side street here in New York, and there’s a guy sitting haphazardly slung across a couch. Backpack at his feet, he’s observing two girls – one his girlfriend? maybe? I hope? – try on dress after dress. Argh.
I pull some things that look like I could slip them on past my hips, then slink to the back room, where more vintage finds await, but no more guys with prying eyes.
Thankfully, all’s well that ends well when you’re shopping on credit. The yellow dress in the pictures is the first thing I pulled from the racks – no tag, no indication of size, but I loved the color, and the style was simple enough that – if I wanted – I could tell people I bought it at Ann Taylor. Perfect.
The first day I wore it, I was bombarded with compliments – and not just on the dress. “Your hair looks great today.” “Love those heels.” I think feeling beautiful in this vintage find gave me more confidence, and of course those heels I paired it with made me stand a little taller too. Lesson learned: Sometimes to grow your style you have to break your own rules.
(photos: James Nord)