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Wearing History, Most Excellent Vintage Dresses

Updated on October 21, 2009
A Dior model in the early 1950's
A Dior model in the early 1950's

Vintage clothing is always in. Why? Well, mostly because allows us to play dress up and make believe in a way that still appears to be stylish and hip. It's funny, the unspoken rules we have concerning dress. If you want to pretend that you are an 18th century lady, people will admire your vintage jacket and ask you where you got it. If you want to pretend that you are an astronaut, you'll end up in an extended interview with human resources trying to explain away the fish bowl on your head.

(Incidentally, fish bowls are awful torture devices into which no real fish should ever be put, so you may as well keep them for playing astronaut.)

So then, we turn to vintage dresses. Vintage dresses can be found at almost any second hand store and in a plethora of places online. Vintage is a huge industry, and it's actually a nice industry as it doesn't involve poisoning little Chinese kids with lead in order to produce the product. If we all bought and wore vintage it would surely precipitate significant change in the world economy.

Feeling smug yet? You should be. Unless, of course, you have yet to buy a vintage dress and wear it to the admiration of your peers. What counts as vintage? As a general rule of thumb, anything your grandmother might have worn when she was your age. Some items of 70's clothing are even considered vintage, in spite of the fact that for many of us, this was the attire of our parent's generation. (If you're so young that your parents were wearing 80's fashions, what the heck are you doing here? You know you can't read any words that haven't been entirely stripped of consonants. You should be off taking your ADD Ritalin pills and singing Hannah Montana songs. Demmed young people.)

When buying vintage dresses, make sure you know your size. Not your dress size, your actual physical dimensions. Dress sizes were quite different even twenty years ago, when women were, on average, slimmer and the world was ironically not so obsessed with being slim. There are very few things that were truly done better in the past, but body image was definitely one of them. Back them, a woman was supposed to have a natural bosom and hips and she was not demonized for it. Nor was she encouraged to hack and slash herself open if she put on too much weight or didn't have enough in the right places. Of course she was often confined to domesticity (depending on how far back you want to go,) and viewed as being far too hormonal and emotional to deal with serious issues like voting for corrupt presidents, but as with all things in life, swings and roundabouts. Whatever that means.


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