Friday, October 23, 2009

When Vintage Gets Personal: Joyce's Highschool Sweater

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What really excites me about antiques and vintage clothing is the way they make me feel connected to the past. When I put on a wacky 80s prom dress, I think about the girl who picked it out 30 years ago and what her prom was like, who her date was, if she lost her virginity that night... Old hand mirrors and dolls from the turn of the century make me think of life as a little girl back then. Was it her favorite doll? What did she name it? What did she grow up to be and when did the doll pass from her possession? Usually the answers to these questions are left up to the imagination, but in some special cases an imprint of the individual is left behind. I love finding a book with a ticket stub in it or a personal note written on the inside cover.

I enjoy rooting through the boxes of old photographs in antique stores too, and on some level I feel sorry for the people in those pictures. I feel like they are lost in a way, with no record of who they were, where they were being photographed, or why their pictures are in this bin and not in a descendant's photo album somewhere. I also wonder: Will pictures of me someday end up in an unmarked box like this to either be thrown away or taken home by some stranger? As you can tell by the layout of my blog, I really cherish old photographs of my family. I hope when I'm gone, someone will cherish my photographs and the stories passed down about me.

Now get ready for the crazy part: I truly feel compelled to "rescue" these kinds of items from their unwanted anonymity. It depresses me to think that things that were once loved can end up forgotten and detached from their past. Like this box!

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I found it at a thrift store outside Atlanta. When I opened it and saw the note on the inside, I absolutely had to adopt it.

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Poor Patty! What could have happened that this personalized gift from 1984 would end up on a junk shelf in 2009? Did Patty and her sister have a falling out? Did her sister die and the box got tossed out after the estate sale? Either way, you kind of have to laugh at the irony of finding a box inscribed "sisters forever" in an anonymous Value Village.

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These Laura mugs are also from a thrift store. There is a small copyright dating them at 1976 and they look it! I like imagining Laura as a hip flower child, sipping tea form her psychedelic mugs in some kitschy, colorful apartment.

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And then there's Joyce. I found her sweater in an antique store in NC and immediately had to snatch it up for the shop. When I was cleaning and examining it later, I noticed her little name tag pinned to the inside.

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She also sewed up the sides to make a more snug fit. I was going to remove her not-so-professional alterations, but for some reason I just can't! More of my superstitious weirdness, but I feel like when I found the sweater, I found a piece of Joyce. To me, this little letterman sweater contains an imprint of a 1960s southern high school cheerleader, who smoked cigarettes behind the bleachers and kissed boys in backseats, and checked her hair in her compact mirror and ditched class with her friends. I'm responsible for her now and removing her name tag and alterations would somehow make her vanish completely! Is that crazy? Either way, I think she was a fun girl because I get this fun vibe whenever I put on her shirt.

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I really do feel like used clothing has a story to tell and deserves to be loved and remembered. Maybe that's why I'm so sentimental about the things I sell on etsy. Maybe this is creepy, but I always ask the buyers to send in a picture of themselves wearing the garment. Consider it like an adoption follow-up; I want proof that the relocated item has found a happy loving home across the country. It gives me tremendous piece of mind! I was so elated when one of my buyers actually did send a picture of herself in the dress she bought. Thank you, Heather!! (Psst. She also has a cute inexpensive etsy shop!)

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