As I browsed a rack of vintage dresses today in a colourful little country shop, I had the loveliest surprise. The price tag for a red woolen number that caught my eye was tucked away so I flicked it out. Instead of a price, the tag read “Beth brought (sic) me to wear to a friend’s wedding in 1933. She met Fred at the wedding and they married a year later. I went on their honeymoon to Paris – OH what a joyous time.” Immediately I was at that wedding watching Beth and Fred dancing on the grass back in 1933. To think I was touching a piece of that was just lovely.
Of course I quickly looked at the next dress to see if it had a special story. No, none there. I went back to Beth’s dress and read it again a couple of times, smiling each time. I thought it might just be that dress that was particularly special but I wanted to be transported again. I was checking all the tags now, before I’d even properly looked at the dresses. The next one I found was quite a few dresses over. A lovely green number whose tag told me “Alice had me made in 1968 for a special date with Bill – he loved her in green, it matched her eyes. They loved each other deeply.” I wonder where they went on their special date? I imagine somewhere with lovely sunshine and gorgeous desserts. Maybe he proposed to her then? What a special dress.
I met Faye’s dress from 1963 next. She bought it in a little shop in Sydney and apparently it was on of Johnny’s favourites on her. Maybe the blue matched her eyes. I imagine she had long wavy brown hair and some lovely white shoes to wear with it. Maybe even some short white gloves and a hat to match. Where would she go dressed like that I wonder? Out to high tea!
By this time I had to speak to the shop owner. “The tags on these dresses,” I began, “are the stories real?”
“Some of them,” Kathryn replied with a big smile “and some of them I’ve made up.”
“The one from 1933 over there, is it really from 1933?”
“Yes, it really is. The dates are always right.”
Kathryn went on to tell me that it was an idea she got from a book called The Secret Lives of Dresses so she thought she’d give some secret lives to the dresses in her shop. She pointed me to another dress and its tag, a true story about making breakfast. I’ll let you read this one straight off the tag. It’s fabulous.
Kathryn also talked about the inspiration for her shop. A dear neighbour of hers who had died a few years ago, Mavis Hadfield had been a real vintage lady with an incredibly heartbreaking story of her own, which has been written up and posted next to a portrait Kathryn painted of her that hangs above the desk in the back corner. You’ll have to go in to find out more about Mavis.
Reading about the love stories that go with these dresses, real or made up, was such a lovely shopping experience. It truly was an absolute delight to have events and places to associate with the beautiful outfits. I didn’t buy one today but I am looking forward to when I do because I’ll be wearing a story too, and who knows which wedding, high tea or garden party I’ll have already been to!
Vintage Lady is at 37 Brooke St (Glenelg Highway), Smythesdale. 0409 806 936.