Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Memories of Dresses

I read an amazing book once called The Secret Lives of Dresses. It was the story of a woman who takes over her grandmother's vintage clothing store and finds that her grandmother wrote down the story of each dress.

I've thought a lot about this concept since, especially being a lover of new-to-me dresses. I've wondered about the dresses' history and thought about the stories I'd be adding to their histories. But when I look at my dresses, I don't see a series of stories, or any kind of timeline. Each dress makes me think of one event, the most memorable time I wore it, so strongly that it's like a scent-triggered memory. And I've noticed that this happens most often when I travel.

For instance, the picture I've used for my Etsy shop is of me in a dress I've worn on multiple occasions. But to me, it will always be the dress I wore to a wedding in Cancun. Even more specifically, it's what I was wearing when I was on a beach, watching the wedding party taking photos, standing shoeless in the sand, in my perfect weather (80s and above), wearing a pretty dress, when the servers came and offered me my very favorite wine. That was a nearly perfect moment.

The next dress I wore just this weekend to a baby baptism in Saratoga Springs. I also wore it to a rehearsal dinner the last time I was a bridesmaid. But that's not what stuck. Instead, every time I look at this dress, I'm back shopping in Oviedo, Spain, with my new sister in law.

On our fourth wedding anniversary, my husband and I took an amazing trip to Manchester, England (he's a Man U fan). I had a fabulous dress all picked out to wear for our overseas anniversary dinner... and the airline lost our luggage. We bought last minute outfits from a local discount store (Primark), and that dress has become one of my favorites. It will always speak to me not only of the happiness of being someplace awesome with my awesome husband on our anniversary, but of the innocence of that trip - the last pre-cancer anniversary. The following anniversaries have been just as happy, thankfully, but they've been a very different kind of joy.

When your cuzbud (because we're cousins AND buds) gets married, that's pretty memorable. But when you dance with all your cousins to a song about vacuum cleaner hose-nosed aliens from your childhood that you all still know every word to, you'll never forget that dress. It reminds me how lucky I was to have that kind of a childhood, and of how very very lucky I am to still count those cousins as best friends.

In Portugal, my husband and I wandered Porto one beautiful summer day.

 A few magical things happened that day. First, I got to visit the bookstore where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter. They wouldn't allow people to take pictures inside, but I swear I was there!

I got to do a port wine tasting... in Porto, Portugal!

I tried to blend in with a tiled wall.

But the thing that I think of every time I look at this dress as it hangs in my closet is the moment when Greg and I had been wandering for hours and wanted to stop and sit. So we stopped at a place along the river Douro, and I remembered that my sister-in-law had mentioned a type of wine called Vinho Verde. I ordered one, and that's the moment. Sitting by the water, in the heat, with my husband, drinking a lightly effervescent glass of "green" wine. Every bit as magical as Harry Potter.

We visited Madrid during that same trip, and even though one of the highlights of my trip was getting to visit a thrift store in Europe, that's not what I think of when I look at this particular dress.

I think of the feeling of the heat. It was, as they say, a dry heat. My nose bled and our lips cracked and you could feel the heat rising off the pavement. They had mist at every restaurant to try to combat this. You can see and almost feel the heat that I think of with this dress here:

The day I wore this dress in this picture was the first day of summer vacation that year. My husband and I went to the beach, ate at a restaurant by the water, and got ice cream and walked along the shore. For those of you who aren't teachers, you might remember the feeling of the start of summer vacation from when you were a student. That feeling of anticipated freedom, and warmth, and excitement at a couple of months of playing outdoors and in pools. That feeling still comes to me every single year, and it is joy.

But the best, strongest memory is one that isn't connected to just one of my dresses, but a whole closetful of them. I call them my "back yard" dresses because they're comfy and I don't mind if the dogs get them dirty. There is no better memory or feeling in the whole world than sitting in my back yard with my husband and dogs in the summer heat. Not in any country in any land.

What stories do your dresses tell you? I would love to hear about them.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pre-Summer Salvoing (and more!)

If you've read any of my blog, you know that every summer, I try to visit a different area Salvation Army every Wednesday (half off day). This is one of my many favorite summer activities. It's summer specific because there are no Salvos in my route home and the schedule of a music teacher makes mid-week shopping excursions nearly impossible. So I save it for school breaks and summer. 

Of course, with the opening of my new Etsy shop, I've been eager to add to my inventory, and a couple of opportunities presented themselves. 

The one thrift store I do visit regularly during the school year is Goodwill. This is a) because the day of the week doesn't matter and b) there are 2 of them directly on my route home. On one of my recent trips, the cashier handed me a flyer announcing the opening of a Goodwill Clearance Center on May 28th, fairly close to my home. This center was going to charge by the pound. 

$1.69 for a pound of clothes?!?

I made my way there on the appointed day, and it was mayhem. A ton of people,  90° with no air conditioning (usually my favorite, but not with all these people) and the clothes were just dumped on these giant tub/tables with no semblance of order. I didn't look as thoroughly as some because this is a little bit like my idea of hell. I did manage to scoop up a vintage girly prom dress and a few scarves (one is vintage Vera!). The California one is pure silk that someone tried to iron on high (judging from the damage) but I figure someone might want the undamaged part to upcycle! 

I got all of this and a modern maxi dress for me for $3! I'll pay another visit when it's much, much further away from opening day. 

Every year, there is an awards show for Wayne County musicals called the Elenbes (this is a play on the name of the sponsoring bank, LNB).  It's one town over from where I teach, in the opposite direction from home. This makes it impractical to go home after work before the awards, but does give me ample time to visit the Salvation Army that's located in the town. I take the opportunity every year. I'd never noticed before that it is a cell phone dead zone, and this year I wanted to look up labels and was completely unable. I walked away with a few gems for the store, though, and a gorgeous vintage La Regale purse that's ALL MINE. 

The attached tie KILLS me.


PS, we won the Elenbes.

Finally, after writing my previous post about my Dress Collection, I was inspired to go through it and see what I still have. I had a fit of cleaning once shortly after college (yes, they happen rarely enough to be notable) after I'd stopped having to walk everywhere like you do in Boston and before I realized that running could keep me in my dress size. I got rid of all the dresses I was sure would never fit me again, and I will never forgive myself. 

However, quite a few did survive, and I'm so glad. A couple mysteriously seem to be too small for me now (how did they make the cut?) and are too gorgeous to sit unloved in the attic with the rest. So they've been added to the list of inventory! 

WHYYyyyYYYY don't you fit me?

A long, frilly, girly sundress. <3

There are two and a half weeks left of school, and there will be many wonderful Salvo Wednesdays to blog about! And maybe some yard sale-ing as in Magic Summer days of yore. It can't come soon enough! 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Magic Summer Dress Collection Takes an Etsy Turn

Me with my 80s toys vs. Me with my Dress Collection
Circa 1999 

In college, I was a very busy music major. I had time for very little other than classes, doing work for classes, and rehearsing/performing. There were only 3 other things I made time for in my schedule.

One was Friends. By this I mean both the TV show and my actual friends, simultaneously. I went to college in the late 90s and early 2000s, so it was the heydey of my very favorite show. My week was scheduled to the minute, so I religiously blocked the 8-8:30pm Thursday night time slot for Friends viewing parties (and often the 11 o'clock slot for reruns). I don't think I need to say that this was an outstanding choice, and one of the highlights of my college years.

The other two hobbies led directly to my recent decision to open an Etsy shop. One was that my best friend from high school and I, who were obsessed with toys from our childhood, started hunting thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets (etc) over the summers to rescue our beloved 80s toys from oblivion (or worse, mistreatment at the hands of children who thought of them as just toys and not the collectible wonders they are). We sold them on eBay at first, but annoyed with the fees, opened our own website and sold toys together on 80s Twilight.

There was a thrift store near my college that was called Neponset and I visited there almost as faithfully as I watched Friends. Most of my college wardrobe was purchased there, and I also began collecting what I referred to as my "Dress Collection" (yes, I thought of it in capital letters). My goal was to buy as many dresses in as many styles from as many time periods as humanly possible. This was both for costuming purposes and to wear in public for general merriment. I may have forced others into participation in this (see below). Neponset did not survive (thereby breaking my heart), but photos of us in the dress collection did, and happily, some of the dress collection itself is still in my possession. More importantly, the friendships with the kinds of girls who will willingly put on a dress and take crazy pictures with you are still going strong.

Dress collection dress, gloves and...
Dress Collection-worthy hair (thanks, Elise!)

With the cape. Which is my favorite part, and I definitely still have it.

No idea what this was from,
 or why I thought I needed a tiara....
....but I'm guessing it had something to do with this.

Apparently I made the ever-tolerant @thesnugbungalow model all of my dress collection with me one magic summer....
A spot of tea.

German girls!

Actually my mom's prom dress (left, on me)
and her bridesmaid's dress (right, on Sarah)

Gwenne and I dressed up for an in-the-dorm photo shoot...

More tea, obviously.

And then the tea cups go on your head.

While these excursions happened where only we and the photographers could see, Gwenne and Heather were braver still. We wore these in PUBLIC. To the holiday dinner in our school cafeteria, and then yes, oh yes, we wore them to the mall.

At the foot of the stairs to the cafeteria.

Seemingly willing participants....

Modeling our style at Abercrombie. Proud moments.

All of this left me with a lot of good memories, and a love of thrifting and retro/vintage items. As my closet cannot accommodate any more dresses, and my 80s Twilight partner Sarah (@thesnugbungalow) keeps singing the praises of Etsy, my Etsy shop Magic Summer Vintage has been born.

In case you were wondering about the name, Magic Summer has been the title of my blog because it's what Sarah and I always called our college-years summers that we spent thrifting and being generally awesome. As a teacher, I've been able to continue my deep adoration of the summer months, and the thrifting tradition has clearly continued (see previous posts for examples). I'm excited to see where the shop takes me!

Thanks, @thesnugbungalow, for the magic summers, the 80s Twilight days, the Etsy inspiration (and graphic design), and for forcing me to do this blog in the first place. Somehow, nearly 30 years later, you still have the power to make me do stuff and convince me that it's a brilliant idea.

Please visit me at my new Etsy Shop Magic Summer Vintage! 
And at Instagram @magicsummervintage