Throw back to 2013, I had recently graduated from university and was cruising on a US road trip with two girlfriends getting all excited about vintage clothing in Santa Barbara. This fashion drama was the topic of one of the earliest blog posts on Style Sans Frontieres, read about the amazing vintage shop Punch here.
My love of vintage clothing began with a weekend trip to historic York in England with my mum. The city is famous for its cobbled shopping streets The Shambles. Amongst the narrow lanes is the respected second-hand clothing store Priestley’s where Mum bought me my first piece of second-hand clothing, a silk dress from the 60s which fitted me like a glove for her 50th birthday party.
What excites me about buying vintage and second-hand clothing, often more so than buying something completely new, is that there are stories behind the garments and their previous owners. No one wants stained clothes but an alteration here, a cigarette burn there holds past secrets the next owner can only imagine. Second-hand also has the advantage of being more unique, when something fits there is the feeling you and the garment are destined to be together.
Except for the fur coats she inherited from her grandmother my mum never wears second-hand clothes but the two of us are shopping dream team. A couple of weekends ago we were bumbling along Glasgow’s streets doing a wee bit of shopping when we came across Starry Starry Night Vintage in Ashton lane. So many second-hand and vintage stores exist now but there are few worth seeking out, as pieces are often unwashed, crumpled and damaged, but not there. Real fur coats, the best ceremonial kilts and the most Hollywood glam of gowns are thoroughly cleaned and laid out for pleasurable inspection.
Having to delve into racks and piles of clothes to find your treasure gives all the more satisfaction to your vestiary discovery, but this also means one potentially misses out on many discoveries. This time, somehow my mum homed in on a red blazer, the likes of which I had never seen before. It previously belonged to a drummer in the Irish Guards. The Band is one of five bands in the UK monarch’s Foot Guards Regiments within the Household Division. The Band’s main role is to assist the regiments guarding the monarch by providing musical support for ceremonial duties. As a Royalist, the scarlet hew of the Band is very familiar to me yet I have never seen a jacket with fleur de lis trimming like this one-if anyone knows more about military uniform and has more information please be in touch. Slipping my arms through the jacket sleeves I could hardly believed the shoulders fitted, yes the arms were too long but the fit and length of the body were perfect. On closer inspection I found further details which sent me in a whirl. Inside the lapel a label gives the previous owner’s name, details his exact measurements and the hooks stitched at the back where the drum would have rested also amazingly remain in tact. I am not known for making rash purchase decisions but I knew within a minute I had to own this artefact, this story.
When buying previously owned clothes I always have a dilemma as to whether I should preserve the garment as an historical artefact or have it alter so it can have a new lease of life. This time, I think I will continue the jacket’s story by shortening the sleeves so I can wear it as a Winter coat or statement evening jacket; I might even make a new label with my own name and dimensions on to remain true to the jacket’s etiquette.