This post started out with a dress I recently thrifted (with intention to resell). When I brought it home it occurred to me that it is vaguely similar to another colorful flower pattern dress I owned and I thought about doing a comparison. Then as I sorted through my closet I got a bit bogged down with dresses and decided on a three way comparison – vintage vs. contemporary vs. designer.
So I took pictures of myself in the three dresses I picked. I wore my Prada Sport pumps because all dresses are sort of purple. These pumps are a great example of why second hand shoes are the bomb ($15 with the stickers still on), and are comfortable for clomping around and changing dresses.
Exhibit one is a vintage dress. I thrifted it several years ago. Although I love thriftng and second hand, I do not wear a lot of vintage*. I think vintage works beautifully on some people but more often than not it makes me feel frumpy. But I am am a big fan of the exception, and I do have two vintage dresses in my closet. Vintage coats are my other big exception, but that is the story for another day.
The third dress was thrifted it over 5 years ago:
When I looked at these pictures my immediate reaction was I would never wear the contemporary dress and certainly not with those shoes. But studying the pictures, it occurred to me that not everyone would agree. So I sent the pictures to my sister and asked for her impressions without identifying the dresses. (Not that my sister would have been influenced by labels – she is not one bit impressed with designers.) And she wrote back: the second dress is clearly the best. She was quite adamant. I was shocked, if not completely surprised.
Next I checked with my husband. He also said that in the pictures I look best in the contemporary dress although in person he thinks both the vintage and designer dress look much better. (He has seen me wear the vintage a few and the designer quite a few times.) I found this troubling.
I really don’t like how I look in the contemporary dress. It looks, for lack of a better word, standard to me. Conventional. Not interesting at all. I sort of see that it is more flattering, if flattering means making me look more hourglassy or thinner, but I don’t especially want to look more hourglassy or thinner. Moreover, I resent the dress for trying to squeeze me into the shape of a younger woman. Or maybe that it is trying to neutralize me. On the other hand, I am not sure about the vintage dress, I also don’t like to look frumpy. Oh fickle mind. Do you have an opinion about these dresses? Is a flattering (in the conventional sense) dress better than an interesting one?
*Thrifted and vintage are two different things. Thrifted indicates the item was bought at a shop that receives donated clothes and resells them, usually to support a charity. The clothes themselves could have been produced just last month. Vintage usually refers to clothes that were made at least twenty years ago. It is possible to thrift vintage but most clothes at a thrift store are not vintage.