Fashion, fiction, food and wine: four of my favorite things--and Susan Gloss writes about them all. Here Susan shares what she loves about vintage clothes, capturing beautifully how they are so much more than fabric and thread.
I can't identify an isolated instant when my obsession with fashion began. Maybe it started in childhood, when I visited my grandmother at the Florence Eisemann clothing factory, where she worked as a pattern maker. Maybe I caught fashion fever during my angsty teenage years, spent holed away in my bedroom with copies of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue pilfered from the waiting room of my dad's office. I don't know exactly where it started, but I do know that, somewhere along the line, I fell for fashion. Hard.
Loving clothes, though, comes with a price. There's the obvious one—the cost that cautions me from the tag or sticker, forcing me to ask myself, "Do I really need another black dress?" There's also the environmental cost—the strain that our consumer culture places on the environment as we constantly get rid of old things and buy newly-manufactured ones. My love of vintage fashion stems partly from these economical and ideological costs. Mostly, though, I just can't resist a good story.
As I writer, vintage clothing sparks my imagination. I see a sixties tent dress or a pair of purple pumps from the eighties and I think, "What occasion did the owner purchase this for? What was going on in her life?" I know there's a story behind every cocktail ring, every scarf, and even (and maybe especially) every t-shirt.
By wearing something old, I get to continue its story. Quality clothing is not meant to be worn a couple of times and then discarded. It is meant to last, to live. As Coco Chanel put it,
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
From my perspective, vintage clothes just have more life in them.
Susan Gloss is a writer, lawyer, and blogger in Madison, Wisconsin. She recently completed a novel set in the wine country of Spain, and is hard at work on another novel, Vintage, which tells the story of a vintage clothing store, the women who work and shop there, and the garments that come through the door. When she's not working on novels, she can be found posting to her blog, Glossing Over It , or guest-blogging for Wisconsin Public Television's Engage Wisconsin series. Learn more at www.susangloss.com.
For the story behind the stunning Velveteen Wiggle Dress and Bolero Jacket above, visit the 1950s section of Dorothea's Closet Vintage.
Photo by the store's owner, Angela Petraline.
"Use the good china for breakfast."