Monday, 8 July 2013

My Favourite Last-Year Buy: The Villager striped playsuit

What's my favourite vintage piece? When I saw this question posed as the latest IFB project, my mind flicked through the wardrobes full of vintage I've worn, loved and sometimes, sadly, lost. Is it one of my more expensive pieces, extravagant 1950s dresses that only get worn to weddings? Or my brightly coloured dress bought on a sunny holiday in Portugal which makes strangers run up to me to ask me where it's from? Maybe it's one of the pieces bought back when I was a student that helped shape my personal style? Or one of the simple cotton dresses I live in as soon as summer hits?

Making my list, I realised that all my favourite items were tied up with some sense of occasion, where I bought it or where I'd worn it and, often, both. Which is when I remembered this.

This striped cotton playsuit is my favourite vintage piece.

I bought it about four years ago but it nearly wasn't to be. I was at a jumble sale in a pub in a cool but grimy area of London. I saw it on the rail and took it to the bathroom to try on - I had to stand on the toilet lid and contort myself into strange shapes just to try and see if it suited me (this was surely an omen of all the future hours I'd waste in pubs and clubs climbing in and out of the thing every time I needed the bathroom). Perhaps because I couldn't see myself properly, or perhaps because of the piece's obvious impracticalities, or perhaps because of the £15 price tag, I don't know, but I decided to put it back, and continued on my way.

About halfway round the hall I regretted my decision, only to return to the stall to see it being taken off to the loos by another girl. And now I knew I really had made a mistake - I needed this playsuit in my life. When the girl returned, shaking her head at the stallholder, it was all I could do not to snatch it straight out of her hands. So I waited another nanosecond and then I bought it.

I really don't know how I could have contemplated turning it down. It fitted me perfectly, with a neatly tailored bust and waist, and decorated with my favourite pattern of stripes. That evening, I took it out dancing.

Other than the near-miss, one reason this playsuit means to much to me is because I remember so clearly how I was feeling when I bought it. I was trying to recover from a really painful break-up from a boyfriend a few months before. I was exhausted, I wasn't sleeping and I'd lost too much weight. Going to that jumble sale, finding a wonderful item of clothing that could have been made for me, and then wearing it to go out with some of my wonderful friends, seemed like a significant step towards feeling like myself again. It was also about this time that I started this blog.

And, of course, I've worn the playsuit many times since. I was actually wearing it when I met my subsequent boyfriend, while this picture was taken when I wore it for a birthday outing. This playsuit and I have had a lot of good times together.

Perhaps because it means so much to me on a personal level, I'd never actually looked up the label inside the playsuit until this weekend. It's by The Villager. From The Vintage Fashion Guild, I've learnt this was a Philadelphia company who specialised in separates and, thanks to Sammy Davis vintage, that it was a brand who was popular with Junior-aged girls in the 1960s and 70s. There's also a great article on the New Yorker about the writer's longing for the brand as a schoolgirl in the 1960s.

My piece doesn't seem to fit with many of the descriptions given in the information about the company: it's a one piece for starters. There's no collar, and it's a bold stripe, not a ditzy floral or a small print. I've found a couple of its distant relations on the internet such as this 1970s striped skirt or these romper shorts (though I'm pleased to say my playsuit is lovely thick cotton not polyester) but, for me, it still feels like a one-off.

I wore it out on Sunday for no special occasion other than I'd been thinking about this post. It was the hottest weekend of the year in the UK. As I passed girls dressing for the weather in floaty florals or hacked-off denim shorts, I remembered how wearing this playsuit instantly makes me feel smart and pulled together and - more importantly - it makes me feel uniquely me. As all the best vintage pieces should do.

This is a submission for IFB Project #103

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  1. Lovely story behind your playsuit. I love that is has been with you through thick and thin!


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