This week's edition of Other People's Wardrobes features Heather all the way from Christchurch. Not afraid to take her vintage wardrobe right up into the 1980s, Heather always puts together amazingly polished outfits that are accessorised perfectly. Let's sneak into her wardrobe to find out more!
What first sparked your interest in old things?
My mother's old evening dresses and accessories. I loved to play with her jewellery and drawers full of scarves and gloves from the 1960s. Our house was also furnished with inherited antiques and china and we always had nice crystal and china which gave me a taste for old-fashioned quality things.
Tell us about your background in vintage clothing and collecting.
In my teens I started putting together creative outfits for myself, often including retro and vintage items scrounged from my mother and my grandmother - they were both super skilled dressmakers with lots of nice clothes squirrelled away. Then I started op shopping: it was the 1980s and vintage/op shop looks were popular with arty kids.
What is the first thing you remember buying?
When I was about 15 I bought a 1950s party dress in shimmering fluorescent yellow-green! I wore it to a school dance and to a couple of fancy dress type things later: it wasn't exactly elegant but it was authentic!
What do you love most about vintage clothing?
So many things! The quality. I have a passion for beautiful fabrics, flattering design and great tailoring. I have a special love for the very classic, elegant styles like blazers and suits that persist through decades with only slight variations. And of course, dressing in vintage gives me licence to be as glamorous as I want. I am an ordinary woman with an ordinary life, but by dressing up I can bring a little more beauty and excitement into my world. Insofar as clothing can be a form of self expression, I am expressing a belief in beauty and romance and passion and drama and the idea that we can be more fabulous than our circumstances.
Are there specific eras that you concentrate on collecting/wearing and why?
Not really: anything from the 40s to the 80s interests me. My point of difference is probably my love of 1980s fashion which is a bit of a minority fandom... If I had to characterise my favourite style overall, I would like to think it is increasingly classic, tailored, and sophisticated as I get older. But not every day!
What is the best place to search for vintage bargains?
In Christchurch I have found quite a bit of unexpected quality vintage and retro at the $3 warehouse - worth a shuffle through if you are open minded and on a budget, which I am! I love op shops and do the rounds whenever I can in search of hidden treasures. I don't often buy vintage 'retail' and when I do it is still with a budget in mind so some things are out of reach except for special occasions. Which is part of the fun!
Any tips for readers on what to look for when shopping for vintage fashions and accessories?
Keep an open mind and learn to look at clothes objectively: that's how you find your own style. So much of what people think is style is just fashion: buying second-hand and vintage clothes can really encourage you to question your prejudices and received ideas. But if you want to create a particular look, Google authentic images to identify the elements: proportions, fabrics, details, accessories etc. and see how it is put together.
One piece you would save in a fire
My pearls from my ex-husband and my diamond ring from my mother, to remind me that love remains.
First piece you paid for yourself
The first expensive thing I bought was a 1950s ball dress from Madame Butterfly which I laybyed out of my extremely limited housekeeping at the time. I've never worn it except for a photo shoot. I have no regrets.
Your best collection
I have built up a pretty good collection of vintage accessories: jewellery, scarves, hats, gloves and handbags. They are really crucial to getting your look right I think: my outfits are about 80% accessories! I also have an unfeasible number of blazers.
Item with the best provenance story
I don't really know the provenance of anything except my family pieces. What intrigues me is how some beautiful things come to be languishing unloved and wanted in op shops; like a beautiful cream wool crepe, couturier-made 1960s evening dress. I would love to know its story!
My true guilty vintage pleasure is the time I spend on it - I have a job with demanding hours, a child, a house, my running ... I should probably be doing housework of some sort right now! But... no.
Something which doesn't fit but you love it anyway
I have a very beautiful, quite teeny brocade cocktail dress which I have worn a few times but thanks to the running it won't go over my chest at the moment! Not ready to give it up though...
A glass of champagne, darling.