Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The 40 year old vintage vixen…

I opened Xtabay in 2001. I was 26 years old and wore tight t- shirts that said things like "I'm A Pepper" and "keep the back door open and the motor running...". First thing you saw when you entered the shop was an impressive collection of velvet nude paintings and a rounder of 70's poly shirts and old Levi's. Man have things changed. 

This August we will be celebrating 14 years in business. You know what that really means? It means that while Xtabay got older so did I. Last October I turned 40.  I myself, now qualify as vintage. This brought forth a sort of identity crisis for me. I started questioning everything. I found myself single again after a nine year engagement.  I realized I am probably not going to be having children. Is being a career woman enough?  Do I even care that much about vintage clothing anymore?!  I am not one for car shows, vintage fairs, dressing like I'm from another time, I don't even have any tattoos! According to the Myers Briggs test I am an I N F P -- which basically means I don't fit in anywhere.  So not only am I forty but I am also single, childless and wondering what the hell I am doing with my life. 

So what does a 40 year old single woman faced with an identity crisis do?

She goes shopping. 

In a vain attempt to ease my pain and figure myself out I indulged in some serious retail therapy. I shopped the racks at Xtabay as if I was a new customer. I shopped all over town trying to find myself.  I tried on tons of things and this is what I found:
 I favor wearing black. I always feel stylish (and thinner) when I'm wearing black. I like simple, fitted silhouettes. I almost always accessorize with a vibrant green handbag, a big gold necklace and my never to be taken off silver bangles. I enjoying wearing stacks of bakelite on my wrists and tend to favor the bangles with rhinestones and facets.  I am hopelessly devoted to high heels and depend on them for reasons not 100% healthy. I enjoy wearing a bold, shapeless sweater or  jacket with skinny jeans or leggings. I like appearing as if my body is huge and my legs are tiny? Why, I don't know.
I love a good 40's dress.  This 1940's rayon dress by Dorothy O'Hara is definitely a keeper.  It's figure flattering, has a wicked sexy raven print and is edgy and classy at the same time. A common pitfall to avoid when wearing vintage (at a certain age) is wearing something with too cutesy of a print. When I was twenty I looked downright adorable in a Little Bo Peep novelty print dress but at age forty it starts to look kind of prudish and frumpy on me.

See how happy I look?! I strongly suggest investing in a fabulous 1940's dress. If you can't find a suitable print, just go for a black one. The cut is really what it's all about. 

The illusion lace dress below is one I had designed for our Xtabay label and is something I would undoubtedly wear to a cocktail party or night at the opera. One of the best things about having our own label is we can get these dresses in a variety of sizes! My 40 year old body can't squeeze into all those tiny vintage dresses anymore. In fact, my 26 year old body couldn't fit into a lot of them either:) This knockout dress with some strappy heels and bold clutch and I'd be in good shape. 

Xtabay Illusion Lace Dress available to purchase here in our Etsy shop. 

That's me doing the "…b@*ch please" pose wearing another of our Xtabay originals. This dress features kimono sleeves and pairs great with Sarah Bibb's Obi Belt. The shoes I bought at Imelda's .  The dress is flattering if you tend to gain weight in your midsection as opposed to your ass and hips. I have always struggled with the curse of the muffin top and this style seems to hide it pretty well. Did I mention I love black?
Our Xtabay Kimono dress is available to purchase in our Etsy shop here. 

The little black dress above is another from our Xtabay Original collection. It is pretty close to perfection. It is available to purchase in our Etsy shop here.

I have spent a great deal of money and time the past few weeks at these shops in Portland. Their sales people are all fabulous and have helped me to discover what works well on my 40 year old figure. 

1. Adorn on 34th and SE Division Street in Southeast Portland. Ask for Wendy, she belongs on Advanced Style and is the stylish, loving, Jewish grandmother you always wished you had. When you are done shopping with her at Adorn, drag her with you down to Xtabay- she'll make you look like a million bucks in no time. 

2. Mink Boutique on Hawthorne in Southeast Portland has also changed my life. Carla and Rachel are brilliant at finding you the perfect thing.

3. Communion on Hawthorne who strangely doesn't seem to have a website. Lot's of simple, sexy, modern black clothes. Great pieces for layering and wearing vintage kimonos over. 

I feel like the older a women gets the more accessories she should pile on. Thank God for Ari Seth Cohen and the wonderful women of the endlessly inspiring fashion blog Advanced Style

What I've learned though from exploring new and vintage clothing is that my love of vintage runs deep. 
While showing a customer some of my favorite pieces in the store this morning I felt my chest get full. I felt joy wash over me as we both gushed over the beauty of a perfectly formed hat from the 1930's. I raced about to show her other things, and she exclaimed: "Honey, if you were in New York people would be lining up at your front door! "

I was so happy, and I knew I was in the right place. Still.


  1. Something about this struck a chord with me. Thanks for a really inspiring read.

  2. I think you look totally amazing Im 37 and wear vintage looks eery day from the 20s through the 60s I only started wearing full on vintage when I turned 35 and decided I was now old enough to dress exactly how I please and everyone be damned. I do have some 40s pinafores that I may be too old for but I still wear them and love them. I actually sort of like the costumey look, its fun and life is meant to be enjoyed. I plan to wear vintage for the rest of my life, which I hope is long and happy one

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