Monday, 31 March 2014

Putting Together a Prize Winning Vintage Outfit - at Vintage Ireland

So I went to my second Vintage Ireland "Fashion & Decor Fair" back in November, and this time I won the best-dressed prize! I've been meaning to share some photos from the event; but things just have been very busy with my shop and new projects, I've even started designing and sewing my own things again. Now that the new social season (!! I know, social season) has begun and the next fair is less than a week away, I feel it could be a good time for this post, and to put in a few tips towards dressing for a vintage events like this.

The dress that I wore was a 1950s-1960s cotillion/prom style chiffon formal gown in sea foam green, unlabelled but possibly a Sylvia Ann creation (I've since seen a near identical gown marked 1950s and with an original Sylvia Ann tag). Because of a restoration that was done on the dress prior to my acquisition of it, the skirt is slightly slimmer than its original late 1950s/early 1960s full-skirted look.

Photos from Vintage Ireland
Photo by John Coveney

Photo by John Coveney

Pearl & I 
Photo by John Coveney

It was my second time winning a best-dressed prize at an event in just a few months, so it really made my year. As I'm preparing the outfit for the new fair, I'm dwelling on some of the things that I've learned about vintage event dressing, that perhaps you'll also find helpful, especially if you are entering the dress competition whether at the upcoming Vintage Ireland fair this weekend or any other vintage occasion!

Tip No.1: Wear Authentic Vintage
Some events such as Vintage Ireland's fashion fairs require the outfit to consist mainly of authentic vintage (as opposed to reproductions or "vintage-inspired") garments, so it would be absolutely important that you have something vintage on you on those occasions. If the venue doesn't have any requirements I feel that one still holds an advantage by wearing the real vintage thing because it's usually rare and unique compared to most modern reproductions; unless, of course, it's an event celebrating modern retro-style designs or your own sewing which would be a different matter.

Tip No.2:  Consider Choosing a High-Quality Vintage Boutique for Your Main Piece

My own vintage wear come from a number of different sources: charity shops, flea markets, local vintage boutiques, vintage fairs, online shops. I've gotten great things from all these places, but time and time again I've found that the pieces that I can count on to carry off important occasions have come from carefully curated vintage boutique shops that have at least some specialisation in high-end vintage. This is not to say that the clothes from charity shops and flea markets are less excellent (I'd comfortably wear my 20 Euro vintage dresses any day), however the reality is that one is not likely to often find suitable pre-1960s occasion dresses outside of curated vintage boutiques, and when one does find one or two, the lack of choice could affect one's decision-making badly. If you are serious about dressing appropriately and looking your best for an event, then I would definitely recommend checking out some of your local trustworthy vintage boutiques either in shop or at their vintage fair showcase stalls, as well as online curated shops; and putting some investment in your purchase - it doesn't have to break the bank either, as you'll find that generally vintage fashion prices are much less steep than even the average high street shops.

I got my dress from Daisy and Stella Vintage on Etsy which specialises in Early to Mid Century special occasion dresses, and I must admit that it was a somewhat bigger purchase than most of my vintage day dresses and took some deliberation. But I went for it as it was not to be easily found elsewhere, and I felt safe purchasing from a shop with consistent quality, great taste, and strong customer relations. It definitely has a special place in my wardrobe, along with the likes of my precious 1930s Marshall Fields velvet opera coat and 1950s ballet dress.

Tip No.3: Accessorise Well

Accessories are truly a necessity for classic, old-school vintage fashion. I'm finding it easiest to create a clean, effective look by matching a minimum amount of jewellery to the main clothing piece such as a gown, two-part dress or suit. This is by no means the only way (I often contemplate basing my outfit on a piece of jewellery that I really want to wear), but it's what I find works for me the best at the moment. For my outfit here I simply added a pair of 1940s paste rhinestone clip-on earrings (worn also with another dress to Film Fatale's Halloween party), and my Clark black suede shoes.

At times like this it really helps to have a collection of vintage jewellery and accessories such as shoes, handbags, and hats to choose from, which can be slowly built up from small purchases here and there. They don't have to be expensive (I found my earrings from my friend Moira's stall at a vintage market for only a few Euros) as long as you've figured out what you like and works with your general style. I myself am actually still trying to find my way with gloves and hats as well as needing to acquire more of those. I would have further included gloves with the ensemble had I been able to find a pair that was completely suitable. 

Tip No.4: Be Yourself and Dress What You Like
After all the technical stuff, it's time to return to the most important thing: what you really want. It's easy to get lost in a mountain of vintage styles and to feel pressured to assume a certain look, but don't forget that whatever look you are trying out, you can bring your own personality to it and you don't have to replicate anyone else either from the past or now! And at any time if there's a look that appeals to you, I say, go for it. When I first attended the Vintage Fair last spring, I wore a 1980s does 1950s floral cotton day dress (a bit Laura Ashley style) with a boater hat which got me a spot prize though didn't win a place in the competition, but that was what I was feeling comfortable in, and I don't have any regrets about my it. It's my personal joke that I'd wear practically any style for modelling projects, but when it comes to dressing for myself I'm really quite stubborn with what I happen to like. Recently, for example, I'm most inclined towards the 1940s Film Noir look and that's what I'll probably stick to.

(The next Vintage Fashion & Decor Fair by Vintage Ireland is happening on Sunday April 6, 2014, 11:30 am - 6:30 pm at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire near Dublin. You can find the event page on the website here or the Facebook event here. It's 7 Euros in and a special rate of 5.50 Euro is available with the coupon either on top of the Facebook event or here. Highly recommended for an afternoon of shopping, lounging, vintage make-over, music performances and prize-winning!)