I always attend the conferences organized by Initiatives in Art and Culture. At last month’s New York Fashion + Design Conference, I met designers Anna Sui and Zandra Rhodes — and Anna admired my vintage Ossie Clark dress, so I was on cloud nine.
I wore a different Ossie Clark dress to the conference’s opening night, but I neglected to post an outfit photo — which I took after the event, obviously, because my co-star, Edward the dog, doesn’t attend many conferences. He’s got a busy schedule.
Dress: Vintage Ossie Clark (probably acquired in 2006)
Boots: Prada (2008)
I wore the same boots with this dress in 2014.
In warmer weather, I wear the dress with different shoes.
I have no idea what shoes I was wearing in the 2006 photo below. It was the pre-blogging era, and I didn’t go out of my way to take a full outfit shot.
The Ossie Clark dress was perfect for the panel I attended, which featured my old friend Cameron Silver and stylist Andrew Gelwicks talking about how it’s “Chic to Repeat.” I’ve known Cameron for over a decade (appropriately enough) through Decades, the vintage store he founded.
The panel’s slideshow included Queen Elizabeth II …
… and my personal favorite fashion repeater, Tiffany Haddish, who helped me get a few seconds of fashion fame on Inside Edition.
After discussing the many fashion triumphs of well-known women who rewore their own clothes or bought vintage, Cameron and Andrew got to musing about businesses like Rent the Runway. People who love and work with vintage and archival clothing obviously aren’t the right customers for a service that loans dresses for a fee. But I do think rentals are excellent in certain circumstances. Men have always been able to rent tuxedos, so why shouldn’t a woman be able to rent for a special occasion? It seems like a great choice if you’re pregnant; fluctuating in size for other reasons; need a hard-to-find size (unfortunately, that’s practically all plus sizes, and I don’t know Rent the Runway’s track record on those); have absolutely zero storage space; and/or are blessedly immune to the sentimentality that plagues packrats like me. But if you can easily grab something off the rack, you’ve got no obligation to turn up in a different dress at every event, as if you’re an actress on a publicity tour. I question renting for novelty as much as I question overly aggressive closet purges and fast fashion.
This is especially true because there are so many options for good, inexpensive fashion TO KEEP these days. In the early 1990s, I had to rely on in-person sample sales, like the one where I got this feathered dress.
In the late ’90s, eBay came along with an online alternative, and there was a profusion of individual vintage dealers. I got the vintage Donald Brooks Couture dress below for $60.
Now, I’m blown away by all the shopping options for vintage clothes, used designer clothes, and any kind of current clothing at every pricepoint. Depop, Poshmark, The RealReal, 1stdibs, Vestiaire, Outnet, Yoox, good old eBay, Etsy … remember that the big department store websites sometimes have extraordinarily deep discounts. I say get one ultra-amazing, possibly used thing and wear the fuck out of it for as long as you can!
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“It’s chic to repeat,” as @cameronsilver likes to say. I think I’ve outdone myself with this @prada dress from 2012 #itschictorepeat #slowfashion #slowfashionmovement #homegrownvintage #30wearschallenge #reuse #rewear #prada #wiw #ootd #throwbackfashion #throwbackthursday #tbt
Who cares if people have seen it before? In all my years of wearing the clothes repeatedly, I think I’ve gotten one “You’re wearing that dress again?” comment, and the only gales of laughter that resulted came from me, directed at the audacity of the speaker. Having a “favorite outfit” is great! If you’ve got something that is guaranteed to make you feel good, hold onto it and wear it whenever you need a confidence boost. As a bonus, having a keeper might be gentler on the environment because, as Cameron pointed out at the conference, rental places have to dry clean garments constantly. When you own vintage and/or special-occasion clothes, you don’t have to worry about someone else’s hygiene issues so the best practice is to clean them … almost never! Trust me! Spot cleaning is okay, but anything else can lead to damage, so whenever possible, air that dress out and put it right back in your closet.
Cameron amused us with an anecdote about the famous 20th-century socialite and fashion maven Nan Kempner that I’d never heard before. (Do some research on her — she was outrageously quotable.) Apparently, she declared one simply had to wear one’s couture at least twice — to prove that you owned it. Borrowed was not the business for Nan. That said, I’m not sure that Nan would approve of my wearing a James Perse t-shirt dress approximately 100 times since I got it in 2002. Maybe that would be taking it too far for her. But if we’d met and she’d had the audacity to say something about it, you know I’d be gleefully telling that story for the rest of my life. “I was insulted by Nan Kempner while wearing a t-shirt dress!” would’ve have been almost as legendary as being on a “disaster area” page in a fashion magazine. Print for the win, though.
Spread the word that it’s chic to repeat. Even if — no! — especially if that outfit has gotten you on the worst-dressed page. Best-dressed lists belong to the wealthy and famous, period. On the worst-dressed list, anyone can be a star!