leadIt’s not only the vintage clothes themselves that are unique, but the stories behind them are what make vintage so appealing. Ellie Woodward takes a trip down memory lane, exploring her own vintage heirlooms.

Childhood memories are often bathed in sunlight and sweetness. Holidays at the seaside, shadow puppets on the wall of the villa. Glass bottles of lemonade, missing teeth, the wooden swing in my friend’s back garden, collecting conkers, blackberry picking, dolls dressed in pink linen, biscuits and birthday cake, and, perhaps, the most vivid of all for me is the dressing up box.

I can still remember it clearly – a large, grey plastic box overflowing with my mother’s old dresses, tights, necklaces and shoes. There’s a photo of me aged three, playing in the garden with my doll in a pushchair and my mother’s leather handbag slung over my shoulder, probably filled with her silk scarves which I apparently had a penchant for stealing. Another photograph (see left) shows me wearing one of her jumpers which came down to my shins, and a pair of her shoes, my toes rammed into the ends to keep them from falling off. I think it was then that my love of vintage began.

grandparentsMy grandmother had a similar dressing up box which I loved exploring whenever we went to visit her. My mother tells me that my favourite item from this collection was a stunning evening gown. It had a black velvet halter neck bodice with beaded detailing around the neckline, tightly fitted around the waist with a full length layered tulle and satin skirt.

I recently found an old black and white photograph (see right) of my grandmother wearing the dress on honeymoon with my grandfather. She’d accessorised it with some long black gloves, strappy high heels, her hair coiled into a chignon with a large cream flower holding it in place.

With my grandfather wearing a tuxedo, their arms wrapped around one another and beaming smiles, they look every inch the stylish couple in the throes of romance. Their lives together were cut short when he died suddenly some 24 years later, but the memories nestled in the folds of that skirt lived on as I draped it over myself, aged three, revelling in the fabric and the glamour.

It is this uniqueness that makes vintage clothing so irresistible. Slipping on a vintage dress means investing in an heirloom. Not only will you be the only person wearing that dress but the story behind the piece is as essential as the pattern.

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