There is a little stretch of woods at the edge of our neighborhood that I have only ventured off to a few times. I always find myself claiming that it’d be such a beautiful place to spend time: to listen to the birds, the river twisting through, the sound of leaves and twigs settling after welcoming a strange human wanderer. But like many things I say I’d like to make time for, I don’t.
One thing this blog has been over the past year is an invitation to slow down. When I began writing on Beautiful Day three years ago, I made it my mission to post every two weeks. That led me to a quick burnout and long stretches of inactivity. In those stretches (and in times since) I doubted my capabilities, wondered if I’d eventually reach an age at which I couldn’t enjoy wearing vintage, and felt as though no one could ever be interested in what I was doing in the way that I was.
But I was determined to find a way to continue the work I’d put into something I was so passionate about. I spent a good amount of time crafting a new logo, teaching myself a thing or two about digital illustration. I printed business cards and changed the layout of the blog. I had a realistic schedule, and I was going to follow it. With this energy came a new set of eyes and what did they spot on an outing one day but this 1960s strawberry print nightgown. In a discount bin at that, for a whopping $5.
It would be the first vintage I had purchased in close to a year. I wouldn’t say that I consider it a sign of any sort; I certainly didn’t then. But retrospectively I can view it as symbolic in its easiness. It wasn’t looking to be found; it just was.
I didn’t realize that the piece was a nightgown or house dress until long after I bought it. I researched the label, Miss Elaine, and found a decent amount of information from the Vintage Fashion Guild. This lingerie company was founded in 1926 and is still in operation. A simple search of “Miss Elaine nightgowns” actually turns up several department stores and shopping results for very traditional ladies sleepwear. Most, however, are in the pastel color palette and don’t exude the same playfulness as this dress does with its fruity print.
Part of the traditional look that is apparent on this vintage piece is a simple silhouette with cuffed sleeves and a pointed flat collar. The fabric is lightweight and as airy as the roomy pocket that sits below the hip, and a series of textured metal snaps runs down the entire length of the nightgown. What I initially thought of as a pin-tucked bodice is really more of a gathered yoke, which gives the dress a smock feel. This was what my first impression of it was, that it appeared to be something akin to an artist’s smock. The print, though–a homey pattern of blue and yellow strawberries interspersed with tulips and daisies–seemed too striking to have ever been potentially splattered with paint.
But perhaps it would take to other forms of art. Sipping tea on a quiet morning. Reading a favorite book. Being alive in nature. Transforming a nightgown into day-wear as the modern wearing of vintage compels me to do.
Simply, slowing down.