It’s been a hot minute since I actually wrote about clothes on this blog, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that a couple of months ago I found the most beautiful sun dress at vintage fair here in the Bay Area. Somewhere between cerulean and cobalt blue, with delicate white rope piping and thick straps that create a square neckline, it’s a deliciously whimsical piece of clothing.
The vintage fair I attended with my friend, R, is called A Current Affair, a biannual event that rotates between LA, New York and San Francisco. It was a riot of colour, texture, embellishment and pattern, and that’s just the outfits of the attendees. While R bagged herself a Moschino S/S14 tape measure coat I fell for a busily patterned ruffled midi skirt, which is more versatile than it sounds. Later, as we walked down one of the aisles of vintage sellers, I spotted a sliver of blue poking out from a rail (belonging to Carny Couture) and made a beeline for it.
I’ve had a thing for nautical-inspired clothing since I was a child. I have no idea where this predilection came from, but I do remember obsessively wearing an oversized (on me) white top with a navy blue sailor neckline as if it were a dress around the house when I was about 11 years old. It used to belong to my godmother and I probably looked utterly bizarre in it, but it was one of my favourite pieces of clothing at the time.
Something about this dress gave me those nautical vibes (perhaps the rope piping, almost certainly the colour combination) but it was out of my price range, especially for something I knew I wouldn’t wear on a regular basis. But I tried it on anyway, begrudgingly handed it back to the seller, then spent the next half an hour panicking that I’d made the wrong decision. By the time I’d come back, someone else was already trying it on.
The thing I felt in that moment was the precise THING that makes vintage shopping a joy and a curse – more often than not items are unique, there is no rail packed with seven other identical garments in varying sizes. To leave something behind is to understand that you probably won’t ever see it again; to buy it is to know you have a little piece of fashion history that will always be ever so slightly different from anything else.
Fortunately for me the woman trying it on passed, and after trying it on again, panicking about the price, R haggling on my behalf and me sweatily trying to find an ATM, eventually the dress was mine. And how could I not bring it to Mexico with me? For all my mental calculations and internal bargaining that I could layer this over a t-shirt or dress it down for work, it’s clearly a dress made for summer sunshine and seaside adventures.
According to the lovely owner of Carney Couture, she found this dress in Palm Springs and it’s potentially from the 1970s, though there are no labels or storyline about it beyond this. It feels absurdly decadent to me and I practically made myself dizzy from twirling about in it as we got ready in our hotel room. I wore it for my birthday dinner and paired it with some equally over the top shoes – a pair of silver pleated, pearl-encrusted platform sliders – originally by Kurt Geiger but found in a thrift shop in Berkeley last November. The kimono-inspired cover-up is an old number from River Island, gifted from about six years ago, and these photos were all taken on an iPhone.
I tried – and failed – not to drop any guacamole on the dress, so it’s currently at the dry cleaners, but when I get it back I fully intend to do my best at finding ways to wear it on a regular basis. Current ideas include layering over a white t-shirt or brightly coloured polo neck. I’ve written before about trying not to save belongings (clothes, make-up, even stationary) for “Sunday best” and know that such a dress could easily fall into that category. Fortunately there’s just too much twirling potential to leave it on a hanger.