A little of what you fancy

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Definitely does you good. Work out which clothes in your wardrobe make your heart beat faster – that’s where you should spend your money.

vintage pink fabricSince the new year, I’ve been thinking very hard about my wardrobe – how it’s working for me, and what I like and don’t like about it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that fight it as I may, the absolute favourite part of my wardrobe is the vintage items. Every item on my list of favourites or most-worn is vintage. Some are valuable, some are not, but they are the things I would rescue in a house fire.

I’ve had some of them since I was really quite young – say 11 years old. Each item is unique, many of them have handwork that in a modern age could only be reproduced by buying couture, or are made from fabrics that are no longer produced.

Nevertheless, over the past few years, I’ve also divested myself of many of them. As you build up a collection, inevitably you get duplicates, or your tastes change, and as with everything else you own, every dog has its day. Styles become too young for you, or a garment too small, for instance. If you find you’re not wearing something, it’s best to pass it on.

But at Christmas, I made a mistake. I sold one garment too many and its loss made me feel absolutely ill. I shouldn’t have done it. And although that garment, being unique, is irreplaceable, I decided that the best cure for my angst was to buy something new, and that would make me feel better. 

vintage gold fabricAnd indeed it has. I happened upon, on Ebay, a vintage quilted silk jacket that gave that tug at my heartstrings. You know the kind. In real life, it turned out to be much more beautiful than the picture online, a sort of rich conker-brown colour, with the most perfect topstitching making chevrons and swirls all over it. It fits me to a T and I can see me wearing it for the rest of my life. 

It also replaced a gap in my collection. I had at one time had a peach quilted 1930s bed jacket that was quite similar, but over time the silk had shattered and the garment simply fell apart. This is something you have to expect with old clothes, but it is always a shame when it happens. This jacket therefore re-ticks that particular box in my collection. 

Realising this made me sit down and work out exactly what it is I want from my vintage clothes, so that I can target my future buying more accurately. My list is as follows, and it shows that I’m a magpie who cannot resist a bit of glitter.

vintage blue fabric* Lame and other metallic fabrics from the 1920s to the 1960s. I especially love the real metal fabrics of the 20s and 30s, but am also becoming partial to the synthetic brocades of the 1950s and 60s. These have a lot of body and sometimes a wonderful texture – shown are fabrics from three garments I’ve bought recently.

* Sequins and beading, particularly 1920s gelatine sequins. These can’t be washed, but they have far more lustre than plastic sequins. I’m also partial to fully-beaded or sequinned cardigans of the 1950s and 60s, which luckily can be dry-cleaned.

* Silk velvet and satin of the 1920s and 30s. Some of my favourite evening jackets and dresses are in these whisper-fine fabrics, which modern fabrics can’t come close to emulating. Wearing one is like being stroked by a chinchilla.

* Dressmaker details of the 1930s-50s. Ruching, shirring, faggotting, godets, inserts, hemstitching, drawn-thread work, embroidery, bias-cutting etc. Garments of these eras abound in wonderful little touches, many of them in home-made garments created by women for their own use.

* New-look and 1950s tailoring, with a nipped-in waist. ALL of the day jackets that now I wear most often are from the 1950s, which is a shape that suits my size and shape far better than modern tailoring.

* Luxurious coats, especially new-look coats and swingback coats of the 1950s.  With their very distinct outlines – either nipped-in or loose and flowing – these coats are wonderfully distinctive – and they often wear very well, not being the least bit fragile.

Defining and refining my taste in this way makes me realise that vintage is really the most important thing in my wardrobe, and that this is where I should spend the majority of my clothing cash in the future.

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