All photos by Erin Leydon.
About two weeks ago, there was an article for Vanity Fair where Michelle Obama talked about the fact that Barrack wore the same tuxedo and shoes for 8 years and was never called out for it. “People take photos of the shoes I wear, the bracelets, the necklace—they didn’t comment [on] that for eight years. He wore that same tux . . . same shoes. And he was proud of it, too. He was like, ‘I’m ready! I’m ready in 10 minutes. How long did it take you?’” She went on to say how everything she wore was scrutinized and she felt the pressure to wear something new and different all the time. Any repeats were instantly called out, commented on, and analyzed.
We have always been a society that has called out the famous for what they wear. As time passes the sheer overload of information we get on every move of a celebrity seems to grow and grow. God forbid they wear the same thing they have worn before. That is news, big news, and it instantly is flashed around the world. Everyone weighs in - was this time worse or better than when they wore it last? Are they the same size? Is their career ending and they can't afford new clothing anymore? ..... it gets ridiculous. Worse, this "non-repeat" mentality seems to have filtered through to the everyday girl. I firmly think that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are the main culprits to blame. We all know that the fashion set are at the full mercy of the media - but now social media makes us all a critic and all scrutinized. We are all stars in our own lives now and to varying degrees face that same pressure from all sides. Fast fashion has taught us to buy, throw out, and buy more. Then buy some more after that. Why repeat when you just go to the mall and buy something new every weekend?
It is bad enough to be a "normal" person on social media, but there is also a whole slew of girls out there who have become famous in their own right, and whose face has become synonymous with their own brand. This quasi-fame comes with its own version of the pressure to not dare to do a repeat and be seen in the same thing twice.
Case in point - when I pulled this Ossie Clark dress and Hanae Mori caftan robe from my personal archive, I automatically did a count in my head trying to recap all the other times I have worn these and perhaps been photoed in them. It did not stop me from using them for today's column but I have to admit that I did think about it.
It is kind of funny because I wasn't even going to write about this today. Ossie's birthday was back on June 9th and I was playing with the idea to do a write up on him given what I am wearing. However, the same day I sat down to write this, I was going through my Instagram feed and saw Tamu McPherson wear a Rosie Assoulin top. I have seen her wear this several times and post photos of herself in it. After having done that auto-check on how many times I have worn this Ossie and Hanae before, her post stuck out at me. Have you ever had that happen? When you have a thought in your head and then something comes along that you may have not noticed before without that thought being present in your head at the time? That is exactly what happened to me. I commented on Tamu's post how much I loved seeing her repeat her Rosie top and pair it with different things. That it showed people that if you really loved something you should, and could, put it on repeat. She replied that she "really loves the pieces I invest in and I wear them all the time, even after the season"
Music to a vintage person's ears.
Once upon a time, a woman had a long-term trusted relationship with the designers she bought from, the shops she shopped at, and especially her tailor. She not only repeated outfits she loved, but would recycle pieces endlessly through that season and often through the ensuing decades of her life. At one time, magazines were full of editorials devoted to how to make what you wore look different by changing the shoes, the hat, the jacket, the jewels etc etc. How you built a wardrobe up and then added a piece or two each season that worked with everything else. You bought what suited you and what you loved. Good clothing was an investment. Your choices were treated with love and care. They were expected to last for years. Pieces of quality and good design were never expected go out of style. The proof of that is in the world I reside in. The pieces I now find for a new generation are the pieces that worked then and still work now.
This reinvention and repeated wearing of your clothing choices happened across the board and applied to women of all social statuses. For those lucky enough to be able to afford Haute Couture the "wear it again" mentality was written in stone. Women did everything and anything to stay the same size their entire lives so that they could fit into their Haute Couture. They carefully catalogued where an item was worn and what was worn with it so when they re-wore it they could wear it differently. Pieces were brought back to the atelier and re-fitted and re-cut to meet the style of the day. Garments were bought to be cherished, kept for decades and worn again and again. Not worn once and discarded.
As a vintage dealer I get a unique viewpoint on this. Newer estates are a often a hodgepodge of styles and trends that often reflect what society has dictated as fashion. A woman of style who bought what she loved and what suited her - her wardrobe is different - it is like her entire life is laid out before me and there is a story in her choices. Her story. If I am lucky enough to sit down with the actual woman that is selling her pieces, I often hear the stories of a dress as it traveled through her life with her. The dances it attended, the time she wore it when she fell in love for the first time, the small moments that the dress was a part of... moments that still tug at her heart. These stories are told with laughter and sometimes tears, and always, always, you can see that younger self shining out through her eyes as she shares those tales with me. These are clothes with meaning to them. Clothes that not only gave their owners their sense of "style" but that carried a women through her life. You can talk about the quality, and the rarity, and the difference in fabric and construction in vintage all you want, but that extra little something in the really special pieces comes from the memories of the women who owned them. Their lives, and loves are all embedded in the fabric.
Yes, you may have seen me wear these two pieces before, and you can bank on me wearing them again. And again.
Like Tamu, I buy what I love and wear what I buy season after season. In fact, sometimes I even buy things and then don't wear them until several seasons later. I like to live slow sometimes and just wear something because it suits me and my mood at that moment, rather then suit the trend of that season. I mix decades and designers, textures and fabrics. The only thing I stay true to is the love I have for each piece. When you are surrounded by clothes from every era, all of the time, when to wear and how often becomes a mute point. The only start point is how much you truly love what you are wearing. Buy what you love, and love what you wear, and never be afraid to repeat.
Let's make "On Repeat" the newest "old" fashion rule
These have both been in my possession for years and I have worn them endlessly and for now they are staying on my closet. That said I do find twins of vintage pieces here and there so if you love either of these pieces you can pop me an email and I will watch out for one or the other for you. You can also browse my current selection of Ossie Clark here and by beloved Hanae Mori here.
The rest of the outfit: The shoes are Saint Laurent Candie's and the hat is Janessa Leone, both of which are also on constant repeat in my wardrobe.