MISS MOOX + wonderful

The dress

The dress. I spot it on a Goodwill rack. Discarded by some other shopper, it immediately catches my eye. Obviously vintage, and handmade, its deep tealy-blue background covered in bright sprigs of tiny red-and-yellow flowers presents a visually pleasing palette. If only it fits...

I carry it into the dressing room where I slip it on. Miracle of miracles, it fits. Vintage clothing is often sizes smaller than our modern shapes, cut for larger and weightier bodies. I'm delighed by the details as my eyes rove over it. Sleeveless, split halfway up the shoulders, the armholes are finished with fine white piping. The same piping runs horizontally along the front of the shoulders, where it catches tiny gathers and finishes at the neckline. The high rounded neck plunges at the front to a V, all outlined in white piping which runs down to the gathered waistline, accented by pairs of tiny cream-coloured buttons. The skirt is full and round and fairly long, lined with a swishy shiny version of the same deep foam-green teal.

I love it. I'm sold. I slip it off (difficult, but it happens) and take it to the cashier. On the way I notice some small tears in one shoulder, and then a drooping bit where the hem has come undone. I ask the girl running the register if they qualify for a discount. She picks up the phone, calls her manager, and tells me that I get half-price. $2.99 for a wonderful vintage handmade dress.

I take it home after work, where I sew up the tears. It's a flimsy polyester-ish material which easily rips. I also discover that the hem, though finished by machine, has been tacked up with fragile white basting thread that is coming apart. Most of the hem needs re-sewing, which I do.

As I sew, I wonder. Who was the girl who made this dress? What was it for? It looks like it could have been made for some summer party, high hopes of romance and fun carrying along the maker's hands and dreams as she sewed. Why was it taken to Goodwill? Did its original owner keep it until she cleaned out her closet, convinced that she'd never be able to wear it again? Was it part of some woman's possessions, shoveled out as worthless by relations as she prepared to move to the nursing home, or worse, the morgue? Was it a prized last keepsake treasured by someone's mother, momento of a life cut short? Why was the hem never finished, though it's obvious the dress has been worn? Mysteries like this haunt me and play lively scenarios in my brain as I contemplate...

And that's, partly, why I love buying vintage clothes. The story behind each one. The little life dramas that might have been enacted while they were being worn. The mystery. The history. And the uniqueness, garments that you'll never find again. The funky styles that aren't being made today. The thrill of the find. Shopping at thrift stores is one of my earthiest life pleasures...

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