by Margaret Muiruri
History was always a snooze fest for me. I love a creative approach to anything, and my history teachers were anything but creative. Their great joy lay in dates, such as 1982, when who-was-it? Mounted a coup against whose regime? Backed by what branch of the army? That guy wound up in some hell hole in where-was-it, getting tortured, right? But, as much as thirty barrels of cold power couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to know any more about who-was-it, and why he didn’t conquer, I do love a dress with a little history. Because who doesn’t love the idea of ‘that amazing vintage dress’?
December is here, so if you won’t be attending any weddings, you probably have a ruracio or an in-law’s cousin’s graduation coming up. In lady words, it’s glam time! Add a yaaay, and a woohoo to that. But just how do you stand out in a festive sea of elegant ankaras, gorgeous velvets and lovely sequins? By choosing a truly remarkable and storied vintage piece as your main focal point. Yeah, now is about the time to dig into the archives for some good old vintage dresses. It’s the nearly 100% fail-proof way to ensure your look will be completely unique.
There’s something about vintage wear that seizes thought, lodges itself in your cranium and camps there for eons. That’s just my obnoxious way of saying vintage is the kind of wear that grabs your attention and lingers in your mind long after the wearer is gone. It’s probably because it’s a look you once saw on a TCM movie as a child. (by the way, does NTV still air those? I used to stay up reeeal late for that shit. Man, sweet childhood!) Vintage gives you the feeling of meeting your nursery school girlfriend; you know, the one you used to exchange glances with? That girl you smiled at with streaks of porridge at the sides of your lips, then she smiled back and everybody knew that you two were inextricably bound so no other boy dared to look at her? She was yours. That was the unspoken code, even though your entire ‘relationship’ consisted only of said glances and awkward smiles. Now imagine meeting her, all grown up and gracefully turned out. The tsunami of unbelievable recognition that bitch slaps you, and the five-second trance-like state it throws you into, while you try to register all the bumps and curves, before she coos “Gaaiii, you’ve grown tall!” and you realize that your eyes are exactly where they shouldn’t be… Such is the kind of feeling I get every time I see a vintage outfit.
Vintage, (Hanafi?) is a type of clothing or way of dressing reminiscent of yester-years. It is an outdated style or fashion that has become fashionable again. Some say true vintage is at least fifty years old; but ideally, vintage is any style that is more than twenty years old but younger than an antique. These include thigh-high stockings, pleated chiffon miniskirts, cocoon coats, beaded purses, ponchos, disco-tops, point flat slip-ons etc. For boys your options are vintage waistcoats, watches, shoes and goggle-frames like the Ultra Goliath or the Cazal 607.
Vintage wear just oozes elegance, class and sophistication. Plus they have that nostalgic quality about them. I swear I can remember every vintage look I’ve seen since I was a teenager. Two particular outfits stood out for me:
The first I saw with a dorm mate from high school, whose name shall be withheld. I met her at the beach, toddling alongside a certain Mandingo. She wore a vintage mini; a tiny, black dress with white polka dots and small, white, rounded prepster collars. Cap sleeves. Kinda like a sexy schoolgirl look (which is both cute and morally confusing). She wore it with laced up Jesus sandals. And her hair! Man, that hair must have taken a whole SWAT team of beauty experts to braid. It was voluminous. A huge head of long, thick, twisted and winding purple braids running down to her derriere. I think Rapunzel is what she was going for. She looked good!
The second was an aunt. Who by the way does not like being called auntie. She is very feisty this one. A crazy free spirit that will dare just about anything. Never tell auntie Joyce… sorry, Joyce that she can’t pull off a Mohawk, or do a break dance or fit two ping pong balls in her mouth (an inside joke). The vintage look that struck me was one she wore at another one of my auntie’s wedding. It was a tangerine-orange chiffon wrap dress with long balloon sleeves. The dress, when tied, had an inverted v-shaped split at the front that gave the dress a high-low hemline illusion. She wore it with gold colored, single sole strap heels and a beige beach hat with a wide, flaccid brim. She only wore the hat for the photo shoot though. The rest of the time she exposed an odd hairdo – Clean shaved on the left with dragon tattoo on the skin there; then a hair extension flowing to the right side of her face and down to the back. This girl… It’s really hard to pull off vintage and feisty at the same time, and yet somehow, she does it!
Conclusion: If you have the confidence to pull off a vintage look, then you must be having a pretty good time in life.
Well, this last vintage look is what I plan on wearing sometime this December. I’ve spent my entire adult life looking for the perfect vintage dress and I truly believe this one is the real deal. It will be the fairest of them all! – A burgundy swing dress made in fabulous mid-century design; three quarter sleeves, black collars and buttons down to the waist. Beige wedges. Then a pop of sparkle and just the right hint of shine – because is there is no better time of the year to add that extra glitz to an outfit.