Current Vintage was the name of the store. Intrigued by the dress in the window, I crossed the street intending to poke my head in. My mother was confused by the crates of wine outside. “I think it’s a liquor store,” she said. “No, it’s clothes,” I replied opening the door.
Once inside, I was instantly drawn to the rack of colorful Lilly Pultizer dresses: shifts, maxi-dresses, even a romper. My inner preppie — which my Type-A Parent conference friends know is just below the surface — has a soft spot for Lilly Pulitzer’s candy-colored confections. And, of course, these summer cocktail party staples feel right at home in a preppy playground like Nantucket. I pulled out several dresses with try-on potential. As I flipped through them, I noticed the hand-written tags: “Vintage Lilly!” “A rare print.” And some of the dresses looked, well, old. “What are these?” I asked the woman behind the register. “They’re Lilly dresses from the 60′s and 70′s,” she answered. “We’re a vintage store.”
I know that vintage finds are hot among young celebrities — think of Natalie Portman wearing polka-dotted vintage Dior to the Oscars last year
— but I have never worn vintage myself. (Well, except for the thrift-store black ball gown I wore to my friend Lisa’s fifth grade “movie star” birthday party. That dress was cool.) I love the feel of new clothes, thank you very much, not old ones. There’s another problem with vintage clothes, which is that they don’t always fit modern bodies. In fact, vanity sizing is such an epidemic among contemporary retailers that those knowledgeable about vintage clothing recommend trying on clothes a size or two bigger than your current size. No one likes that.
But these vintage Lilly dresses were so charming, I couldn’t resist trying them on. Despite my usual aversion to used clothes, in this case, I reveled in the vintage-ness of these dresses. I imagined the Palm Beach ladies who had once carried a cocktail in these bold, tropical prints. Although I have been a Lilly fan for ten years or more, I had not even known that Lilly Pulitzer dresses dated back to the 1960′s or that Jackie Kennedy, a former Chapin classmate of Lilly Pulitzer’s, rocketed the brand to national fame when she was photographed in one of the dresses.
Although the frocks were not cheap, I selected a few of the more forgiving ones to try on. (The owner of the shop explained to me that they label the clothes approximating modern sizes, so that a vintage size 10 becomes a medium. If you don’t look at the original tag, your vanity remains intact.) The first one was nothing special, but when I tried on the second one, a yellow-and-aqua shift with a hedgehog (yes, hedgehog) print, something magical happened. It fit like a dream. The slightly-below-the-knee length and the split neckline made the dress feel surprisingly modern. But at the same time, I felt confident that I would never run into someone wearing the same dress. In fact, the shop owner assured me that the print was as rare as they come.
I left without buying the dress, but came back to claim it before the hour was up. Although I could never argue that it was a practical purchase — no one has a lot of use for a hedgehog print dress — something about this vintage find spoke to me. I knew that if I walked away, I would never find another dress like it as long as I lived. How often in life do you try on a vintage dress that fits like a glove? No, there was no other option; the dress was coming home with me. I am not its first owner, and I might not even be the last. But I am the current one.
Now, someone please invite me to a garden party so I can wear my vintage find!
What about you? Do you ever wear vintage clothing?