24 Oct Me and Vintage Clothing
I have spent large portions of my life feeling disgruntled with my body and wishing I could wear clothes that I didn’t think suited me, or didn’t fit me in the way they looked on models in magazines, or the slimmer girls at school. As I hit my teens I ‘solved’ this by wearing baggy clothes: flannel shirts, wide jeans, clumpy boots, oversized jumpers. I felt ashamed of my body and wanted to hide it.
Then, when I was around 15, with encouragement from my eternally stylish mum, I started looking at clothes that weren’t readily available on the high street. My mum had always collected, sold and worn vintage, so she helped me dig out pieces that felt comfortable and stylish. We went to flea markets and secondhand shops and we raided the fancy dress box. I began to understand that I could tell a story with my clothes, instead of purely focusing on how I thought clothes should fit my body. When I stopped trying to look like everyone else, a whole new way of dressing opened up to me.
I wore french petticoats, layered, three at a time, paired with a tie waist top. I wore antique underslips with chunky boots and plastic flowers in my hair. I wore 70’s shirts and dresses with bold patterns and huge collars. I adorned myself in costume jewellery: flamenco earrings, multi coloured plastic bangles and strings of fake pearls.
I still yearned to be a jeans and tshirt girl, but never felt I could carry it off. In a way, my disguise had moved from baggy jumpers to bright plumage as a distraction.
‘Don’t look at my body, look at my wildly colourful and unusual clothes!’
But it was a happier and more creative way to exist and I feel grateful for this. I developed an eye for recognising different fabrics, the signature cuts from different time periods and how to play around with shapes and patterns.
As I moved into my twenties, my obsession grew. I roamed charity shops and lazily adjusted clothing with safety pins because I couldn’t be bothered to sew. I had rails and rails of fake fur coats, satin dressing gowns I wore as dresses, jewelled belts, 1950’s dresses, maxi skirts from the 70’s, tennis jumpers from the 80’s and many a garment that had been made from a set of curtains. Vintage was a huge part of my identity, and it always will be, I feel like I learn so much from old clothes and objects.
But then I became a mother. And vintage no longer felt right. My skin felt sensitive under the scratchy fabrics, my body needed more movement than the non-elasticated waists and buttons allowed. I felt restricted by clothing that had once felt like expressive freedom. Also, my body had changed and I had changed, it felt like a shedding of the skin.
Time for something new. I’ll tell you how I navigated this next week.