Vintage shops can help women live their dreams


POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

My style is hopelessly romantic. I am in love with clothes that one might see in a museum, drawn by the kind of beauty that would inspire Pablo Neruda to write a poem for one of his muses. The problem is that most women who love high fashion cannot afford to wear it. Oscar de la Renta and Karl Lagerfeld always remain out of my reach due to the skyrocketing prices of their pieces of art.

Recently, I received a phone call from a good friend. Her voice was cheerful and excited because she had found a 1970s glittery silver Oscar de la Renta evening gown from a vintage shop. She sent me a picture of her wearing the dress, which astonished me because she looked like one of those glamorous women in a scene from a Scott Fitzgerald novel. Her silvery gown showed her curves nicely, and the picture left me breathless.

After talking to her about her exquisite gown, I was grateful for those sellers who offer their gently used couture wear to vintage and secondhand stores where ordinary women have the opportunity to go home with Chanel, Dior, Lanvin or Nina Ricci.

Yet, every time I see socialites dressed in lavish gowns, I am envious of their fairy-tale lives. I always daydream about being a woman with a perfect dress who mingles with Marc Jacobs. However, the daydreaming lasts for only 10 minutes, because I do not have any friends named Olivier (Theyskens) or Jean-Paul (Gaultier).

THIS IS PART of the reason ordinary women hate socialites. We imagine them to possess perfect bodies, hair, faces, intellect, money and boyfriends. In egalitarian America it seems unfair for a few to have so much. Although many might assign to them such unwanted traits as avarice and snobbery, many secretly want to be them.

Dwelling on jealousy and the things you can't have are not good for a person's health, both mental and physical. It does nothing to bring out inner beauty and happiness that manifests itself in an outer glow.

In sending me her picture, my friend presented a beacon of hope to all ordinary women. We should not envy the socialites in fairy-tale gowns. Instead of wishing for the impossible, women should find their own little fairy-tale moments. If they cannot afford the current Chanel, they could go vintage shopping, just like my friend.

I am a firm believer in making my own dreams come true. Even though vintage couture might not be as new as current fashion, I believe the value is the same. After all, women buy clothes that make them feel confident and beautiful. The important thing is that just as affluent socialites are living their own fairy tale, ordinary women can do the same thing, even on a smaller budget.


Jannet Lee is a Hawaii-raised writer who most recently worked at Harper's Bazaar.