Saturday, August 26, 2017

Vintage Handy (Wo)man

Since May, I've been slowly adding to my true-vintage collection, and some of those new-to-me dresses have gotten quite a bit of wear already. But the hunt for true vintage isn't without its challenges. Aside from the inherent difficulty of finding cute, affordable midcentury vintage in larger sizes, when you buy a vintage garment, you're buying something old. And fabric that's been well-loved for 50+ years tends to need mending.

green floral 1960s vintage dress

Since I'm the laziest Type-A person on the planet, when things go on my mending/alteration pile, they tend to stay there forever (or until my mom visits and notices them). Usually I'm ok with this. It's not as though I'm running out of things to wear, though I'm sure Jeff wishes I didn't have quite so many spare dresses.

But when you acquire a beautiful vintage piece with a hole in the seam, or a small tear that threatens to open up into a yawning maw of dress-ruining catastrophe, it tends to short-circuit your normal laziness.

This is exactly what happened earlier this week, when I had a spare hour after dinner and realized that this very dress I'm wearing in this post had a hole in the seam and the pocket below it. I had two other dresses that needed some minor repairs, and while I'm quite enamored with both of them, this green floral dress is special. It's magically comfortable, even at almost eight months pregnant, and the colors and print speak directly to my soul. I absolutely love it, to the point that I can hardly bring myself to wear it for fear of anything happening to it.

Earrings and strawberry brooch: Atomic Lucite
Dress: vintage
Shoes: Zulily (similar here and here)
Cardigan: Heart of Haute

Once I realized that my lovely early-sixties-curtain-print sundress was in mortal peril, it galvanized me. That spare hour of mine wouldn't be spent scrolling through my Insta feed or reading endless Game of Thrones commentary. No, I was going to fish my little sewing kit out of the drawer it's lived in for the past decade and fix all the things.

And that, dear reader, is exactly what I did. And once I'd mended my three secondhand treasures, I felt like a total badass. I put it on my Insta stories and told Jeff over and over until he expressed an adequate amount of pride. I texted my mom all about it and wound up reminiscing all about how I'd learned to sew in the first place.

(...and you thought you were getting out of this post without a story!)

Some of my fondest memories from childhood visits to Shelter Island are the things father's mother taught me. She taught me a number of card games, from Go Fish to cribbage to bridge, and (attempted to) teach me to speak a few phrases in French and count to ten. And on one particularly memorable occasion when I was about five or so, she taught my cousin Brianna and me to sew by hand.

Grandma Hallock and yours truly. I'm taller now.

Brianna and I each made a tiny little pillow out of a green and white paisley-ish fabric that Grandma Hallock had stashed away, and I remember feeling so proud of myself, and so entranced by that little pillow. When we stopped at my mother's parents' house on the way home, as we usually did, I eagerly showed it off to them. They were suitably impressed by my amazing sewing prowess, particularly my grandma, who absolutely loathed anything resembling traditional domestic labor. (Seriously, my grandpa used to have me ask her to make particular meals, because he knew if I asked, she'd say yes, and if he asked, we'd wind up at the diner for dinner. She loved the New York Mets, driving a little too fast, trips to Vegas, and antique shopping. Cooking, cleaning, and sewing? Not so much.)

The next thing I knew, my grandma had pulled out a pair of pants with a tear in them, and I'd settled down to mend the tear. I think it was while I was sewing that my grandma told me that her grandfather had been a tailor; it's also when I learned what a tailor was.

When I'd finished, my grandma was so pleased and proud. More fulsome praise ensued; I'll never forget how happy it made her. Once we'd put away the sewing gear, my grandma and I sat down and she worked on my poker-playing skills, because that's just how she rolled.

My maternal grandparents in their shop, feat. my uncle in the background.

And reminiscing about that weekend so long ago, I'm really glad I picked up a needle and thread again. In weaving the seams of my vintage treasures back together, I've rediscovered a precious memory that connects my two very different grandmothers and reminds me of how special each was. So while I know that neither of my grandmas were much for dresses, I'll wear this one and think of them.


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31 comments:

  1. This is such a lovely post, and I have to agree that sewing brings up amazing memories of my grandma when I was young too. The dress is gorgeous x

    Kayleigh Zara šŸŒæwww.kayleighzaraa.com

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    1. Thank you so much, my dear! Isn't it wonderful how certain activities help you to remember people you loved?

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  2. This is such a cute post! I wish I did more seeing as a kid with my grandma but I just never had the patience, now I really wish I had the skill! Love your dress as always!

    Jessica & James | www.foodandbaker.co.uk / www.foodandbakertravels.co.uk

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    1. Thank you! And I wish I'd learned some more advanced sewing techniques from my grandma while I still could've. After mending a few things, I'm starting to think it would be fun to take up sewing and make my own clothes!

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  3. I like the element of nostalgia in the tone of this post, as well as that you can sew; we're of the same kin! (Not to be creepy.) The dress also looks fab in you, and I'm more than just a little envious -

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    1. Nostalgia is one of my dearest friends ;) I love to remember the past. I didn't realize you could sew! Do you do it often?

      And thank you so much! I adore this dress and the colorful print.

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  4. I'm really impressed at how well this dress has aged, given the fact that it's true vintage! I guess it goes to show the real quality of older garments, I'm sure that the fast fashions of today wouldn't look so good so long down the line! It's so lovely that fixing up your garments has brought back rememberances of both your sides of the family as well, I'm sure they'd both be super proud of you!

    Abbey šŸ˜˜ www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

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    1. The condition of this dress was a pleasant surprise to me, too! I got it on Etsy and you never know how it'll be when you order something online. But I think you're right -- things were made to last in the past in a way that they aren't any longer. It makes shopping for vintage quite appealing!

      And thank you for the kind words. I hope they'd both be proud!

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  5. That dress is stunning. I have a few that I'm afraid to wear too, in case I ruin them, but I cannot sew at all.
    And such a cute story!
    Cora ❤ http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

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    1. I'm the exact same way with dresses I really love. I get afraid to ruin them! But at least looking at them makes me happy -- hopefully you enjoy hanging on to the ones you don't wear, too!

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  6. That dress is adorable, yay for vintage! The only kind of vintage stuff I have is from the 80s from my mother.

    S .x http://ramblingsofayoungprgirl.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you! I just adore vintage right now, and sadly my family didn't keep any of my grandma's cute stuff from the 1950s. But 80s is a fun era for vintage too!

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  7. Such a beautiful post, I tend to leave things what needs to be mended for months on a pile. It's so nice for you to tell what sewing means for you and the connection it has with your family.Also your dress is gorgeous!

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    1. Thank you so much! And I usually leave things on my mending pile for ages too, until I get a burst of energy and work my way through the pile in one sitting. But I'm sure you get to things when you need them!

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  8. This is such a beautiful dress I would have had to have done the same in your position and bring it to the most important one to fix! It's such a beautiful print šŸ’– I always make a point of fixing my dresses as soon as anything bad happens to them because I'd love to be able to keep them for as long as possible and pass them on if I could šŸ’–

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    1. It takes something special to shake me out of my usual laziness after work ;) but this dress was worth it. I need to learn to be more like you and fix things as they happen!

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  9. What a lovely post! My mum taught me and my sisters how to sew when we were kids though I'm not too good at it! Think I need to practice a bit more!
    PaleGirlRambling xo

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    1. Aw, I bet learning to sew is a beautiful memory for you, too! And I'm sure you'd do just fine if you had to mend things -- those skills come back quick even if you haven't used them in years!

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  10. Lovely story! Dress is so beautiful xx

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    1. Aw, thank you! I really love this dress :).

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  11. Awww this is such a lovely post - there's nothing nicer than a vintage item having a real story behind it and how beautiful is this story! I'm glad it brought back some happy memories - those photos are divine and you rock it perfectly!

    Kate x
    http://www.findingkate.co

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    1. The stories are one of the things I love best about vintage! Even if I don't know what they are, I can use my imagination, and when you see little mending jobs, it's fun to think of what the previous owner must have felt about that garment. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kate!

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  12. What a lovely post and dress as well. I really need to try more vintage clothing and mix up my look more. I'm glad you got some happy memories from sewing again.

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm such a fan of this dress. And vintage is really fun -- you can find some lovely one of a kind pieces and be sure that no one will show up wearing the same thing as you!

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  13. I love this dress and all the colours. The vintage vibe really suits you!
    Lovely post x

    teatimewithciara.com

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    1. That's so sweet of you to say -- thank you! I love this particular shade of green SO MUCH!

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  14. This post made me smile so much. When my clothes are dying my mom comes in to save them because I'd only make the situation worse. It's so cool that you can fix it yourself!

    x Envy

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    1. I am so glad that this post brought a smile to your face! And even though I can do little mending jobs, I love having my mom fix things too -- she's so careful and I know even if the rest of the garment falls to pieces, the bit she fixed will stay fixed forever!

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  15. That dress - wow - the colours, the style. Everything!! Kx

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    1. Aw, thank you so much! I'm a major fan of a simple sundress silhuouette!

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  16. Oh gosh, Emily, that is such a lovely story. You are such a wonderful writer and story teller! My mom is a wonderful seamstress, unfortunately, I did not inherit this trait. So, whenever my clothes need some work...I have to go to her for help too. Haha. It's awesome that you're able to fix them yourself! I for one am VERY proud of you! :)

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