Sunday, March 30, 2008

From the Stylist's Mouth

Friday afternoon a stylist came into the Xtabay. She perused the racks, looking for clothing--"no tears, no stains, everything has to be perfect"--for her clients. She immediately gravitated toward a Geoffrey Beene dress and coat that was structured but feminine. "This dress doesn't look any particular era," she said. "When you see it, you say, 'that's a great dress' and not 'that's a vintage dress'."

When she found out that I want to write a book on wearing vintage clothing, she said that one of the subjects not really covered in any books she's seen is how to wear vintage clothing and have it look stylish but contemporary. She said that good vintage clothing, worn right, doesn't look of a particular time, but transcends fashion. "Look at that dress," she said, pointing to a late 1970s Bill Blass disco dress with asymmetrical panels of wispy peach and pale cocoa chiffon. "With modern shoes, you'd never know it was vintage.

Occasionally someone will come into the store who is dressed head to toe in vintage, including a 1940s hairdo and red lipstick. To me, rather than look interesting or chic, she looks like she's in costume and waiting for her cue to walk on stage. Her attention to detail is admirable, but it's o.k. to mix a Target tee shirt with a 1960s necklace and cowboy boots.

"In the old days, people followed the fashion of the queen," the stylist said. "Then it was Hollywood and movie stars--you know Adrian and Edith Head. Now people follow the style of celebutants," she said with disgust. "I mean, what does Nicole Ritchie know about style?

"I was at a convention, and--what's her name?--Dina, Dita Von Teese, the one who was married to Marilyn Manson, was walking around. Everyone said she was so stylish, but she had makeup and clothes straight from the pinup era. I didn't think she had much style at all. You know who has style? People don't like to hear this, but Jessica Simpson has her own style. She doesn't copy anyone else, and it's all quality," the stylist said. (Lest you get the wrong idea, she also mentioned Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett as stylish.)

"You shouldn't look like you're dressed all in one decade. And you should dress for your own body, not to match fashion or look like a particular time. People should look at you and wonder where you got such a great dress, not notice right away that it's vintage."

Her point is well taken. I don't care if my dress looks blatantly vintage, and I'd love to have an eyeful of Dita Von Teese, but I know to make my own look by wearing modern boots with a full-skirted 1950s dress, and if I wear a vintage coat I try to carry a new purse. It's all in the mix, and it's all personal. Straight from the stylist's mouth.

--posted by Angie


  1. Sandra Mendoza-DalyMarch 30, 2008 at 10:51 PM

    Hi. I just came across your blog and was so delighted to read your post. I completely agree with the stylist that came into your shop.

    This is something I like to blog about as well, how to mix vintage with modern. Even when I was very into the rockabilly/pin up look, I never liked to wear head to toe one decade. That's easy. Anyone with a background in fashion history can pull that off. Truly stylish can mix decades with modern and have completely intriguing looks. I just finished writing an article about this very subject.

    I will definitely be reading your blog from now on. You have a new fan!

    There have been books written about this though. Secondhand Chic is a favorite of mine.

  2. Thank you! I like Secondhand Chic, too, although it's been a while since I've read it.

    What's your blog? It sounds terrific--I'd love to read it.

  3. Hi, I just saw a comment of yours in an interview you did. You mentioned that your favorite vintage dresses to collect were my Grandmother's, Peggy Hunt. Thanks for this. I was just doing my usual Googling and came across this. I think I may have seen it once before but didn't have the time to write.

    I understand what you and the stylist are saying about vintage transcending time, but I disagree about Dita. I have seen her up close in person several times now and I think she is amaxing, fabulous even. I mean, my God, I could never do what she does. She puts so much effort into her look, and she looks great. The last outfit I saw her wearing was sooo chic, impeccably tailored, just well, amazing. I admire her for having the energy and the passion to dedicate herself to this art form. Also she taught me that it is not only okay to put on makeup in front of my boyfriend, but can be a turn on to him. I had always felt that this should always be done discreetly to protect the illusion, while all along he had wanted me to put on my makeup in front of him because he loves watching me do this. Silly me.

    Anyway, just wanted to put in my two cents and say hello.

    photos of Granny's dress on search for me under member name jacquiscloset

  4. Hi! I completely agree with you about Dita. She's a stunner.

    The interview must have been with Liz, and I know how much she adores Peggy Hunt's dresses. I'm going to look at the photos tout de suite....

  5. Sandra Mendoza-DalyApril 28, 2008 at 12:04 AM

    Hi Liz.
    Sorry, I just read your reply. My blog is I also sell vintage but I have neglected my online store for way too long.