I’ve often wondered, “How did I start this whole vintage journey?” Part of it I believe started with playing dress up as a child. Sometimes I’ll look into the mirror after putting together an outfit and think back to my childhood and one outfit in particular I put together back then.
As a child, my mom would plan these wonderful beautiful outfits for my school day. And the first thing I would do upon arriving at school was run to the dress up corner. And the dress up clothes became my outfit until school let out. Seriously, my mom would be upset no one saw the adorable outfits she planned.
I remember doing this. But I also remember taking the dress up clothes off for recess. I think I just liked wearing older clothing. The clothing my preschool had no doubt came from a thrift store or the previous teacher’s closet. It was in a way “vintage”.
At home, I had an ENORMOUS dress up box. About 4 feet tall and large enough that I would climb inside with my brother to look for things. It consisted of every halloween costume I ever wore (yes I would wear them around the house on a normal day off of school). The box contained a wide assortment of my mom’s old clothing. My favorite was a dress my mom had before I was born that she would let me wear.
I’ll never forget, the day I planned my first full outfit. It was this black sequined dress I had never liked by it self. In fact, it was my least favourite for awhile. Until I thought, “OOO RED!!” I paired it with my red tights and red heels and thought, “I look fabulous!” I was over come by how proud I was. I created an outfit! I was upset I couldn’t go out of the house like that because my shoes were probably 5 sizes too big for me (they were my mom’s). This became my favourite outfit! This is the outfit I think back to when I look in the mirror and see another bomb outfit I’ve created. It all goes back to that black sequined dress, paired with the perfect red tights and heels.
Now I’m not going to ignore a key factor here. My upbringing in the dance world (later theatre world) 100% had an influence on this. I counted down to dance recital season because that was when my mom would do my make up and I would get all dolled up. It was the best time of the year.
Production Season was also a highlight. A new play would be out, I would get to be a play a different character. This does tie into this concept of “dress up”. But I feel this concept isn’t linear, it’s a web. Because there is the side of me that enjoys creating a new character and bringing that character to life. But there’s also the related side that brings that concept into my everyday life. I “dress up” as me.
What theatre, choir and dance did though, was defined the social parameters to when it was socially acceptable to “dress up”. This is, quite frankly, BS. At least for me it is. While yes, there is a time and place to wear your mom’s clothing that doesn’t fit you properly. What I mean is, find a way to weave in “playing dress up” into everyday life. I’ve come to learn, dress up is the most empowering game I was given. I provided me a way to do the ole cliche “find yourself” at a young age.
For me, I believe dress up was the way I attempted to find myself. Often I feel that’s what I’m doing in day to day life, is “playing dress up”. But I don’t identify that to be “playing” as the title suggests. I believe I was told I was playing dress up. But reality was, it’s always been me exploring my creative style. That’s still what I do.
Now as an adult, I am overcome by joy when I plan and style a new outfit together. I think the other factor is, it’s not what everyone else is wearing. I feel joy and pride when I embark on the hunt for a new outfit. Though it ends up being I’m looking for multiple outfits and the pieces for each of those. Then coming home and piecing together each new creation.