Dressing up or dressing down?

One the things I love about the current use of the word ‘vintage’ is how it encompasses such a broad range of styles. For me, it’s about capturing the magic of fashions past and expressing more individuality than the high-street allows. However, I’ve also always been intrigued by the way ‘vintage dressing’ can be about both rough-edged street style and lady-like glamour.

So, do you love to go vintage in order to dress up, or down?

As those of you know me – or who’ve had a rummage around my site – will probably have noticed, I lean a bit more towards the ‘dressing up’ end of the rainbow. I seem to have inherited my mother’s love of matching outfits, which was probably instilled in me through years of being sent back upstairs to get changed if what I’d chosen didnt quite ‘go’! As such, even when I’m just dressing casually, there is always a little voice inside guiding me to keep it coordinated…

Recently, I’ve been wondering if this is the reason so many of us are drawn to vintage clothing… its inherent ability to make us feel ‘dressed up’,  feminine and attractive. Over the last century, women’s clothing has changed dramatically in response to our changing role. Nowadays, clothing simply has to be comfortable, practical and easily washed! In a sense, high-waisted skirts,  dainty blouses and oh-so-pretty dresses allow us to enjoy the positive remnants of those times when women simply focused on looking the part.

I loved it for the clothes… Another gorgeous Downton Abbey outfit (Source: Kenosha news)

Personally, I know that my love affair with vintage has always originated from my love of the garments themselves – the fabrics, the designs, the tailoring. I’m sure many of you know what I mean… The way your heart skips when you come across something truly beautiful in a vintage market stall or boutique. It’s a completely different experience to flipping through the rails in Topshop, looking for something that will suit you, or fit with the latest trends. The inherent loveliness of those vintage items – the very reason they steal your heart – lies in their uniqueness and their beauty. And it is these aspects, perhaps, which make you feel so good in them. Their beauty simply rubs off on the wearer…

Delicate 1920’s lace top I picked up at Clerkenwell Vintage Fair

Unfortunately, it can also make such items pretty hard to wear in 2012. In fact, it’s this very issue that often leaves me standing in my underwear, moaning to my long-suffering boyfriend that I have nothing to wear (despite being surrounded by various clothing mountains). The clothes I love to wear, those that reflect my personal style, are essentially delicate, ladylike and pretty. Yet my life demands something a bit different from me and reality means I often end up in jeans, or cropped trousers and a tshirt. My job doesn’t really go with ‘ladylike’ dressing – and I definitely couldn’t get away with wearing a top like the one above! To be honest, I sometimes find myself gazing jealously at women in figure-hugging pencil skirts on the Tube, envying their opportunity to at least dress up a little for work.

Yet then again, I sometimes wonder… is all this just an excuse?

If we have developed a personal style we love, why should we only wear it on days we feel we can truly be ourselves? I have a great deal of admiration for those who resist the pressure to conform. I think it is this which lies below my occasional longings to break free of my need for coordinating outfits and explore that other side of vintage, the wonderfully messy, rough-around-the-edges side. Deep down, I want to wear slightly crazy stuff, and dye my hair pink and not give a damn…

Dusty&Dylan Boutique

Carousel Boutique

So, what do you think? Do you love messy, dressed-down vintage or beautiful, dressed-up peices? Or both?

What do you think about the increasing casualness of women’s clothing? Are we losing something, or just being practical?

And do you also feel as if your true personal style is squeezed by the demands of your life? Or have you found a way to wear what you love every day?

Rosie xxx

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