Every vintage collector has a story about a treasure trove that they have discovered, or the day they stumbled across something incredible. Mine happened at the Adelaide Fringe in Australia in 2010.
I sing vintage songs from between 1920 and 1950 so it follows that my audiences are often of a slightly older demographic or vintage lovers themselves. One afternoon I was flyering for my show outside my venue and I was wearing a lovely Vivien of Holloway full circle dress with a big red petticoat. Two ladies stopped by me and commented how pretty the dress was, one said how she still had dresses from when she was young. She went on to say that she was just planning to put them in the rubbish, after all, who would want old dresses? Who indeed? Me. Me. Me. That’s who. I offered them free tickets to my show, if they would just pop the dresses into bags and drop them off to me at the Spiegeltent.
The following week, imagine my surprise when they turned up with bags and bags of gorgeous 50’s dresses. One of the ladies, Jean, had a mother who was a dress maker. So all the dresses were handmade and homemade in England before she emigrated to Australia. More excitingly, they all fitted me as if they had been made for me.
It was the sort of vintage treasure trove that I’ve only ever heard about from other people. Dresses of every hue, with layers of tulle and sequins. A white petticoat so stiff and big that it stands on its own in the middle of the floor. A divine late 40’s dress and matching jacket in apple green. A dress which, if I didn’t know better, I’d say was made by the amazing ladies at Whirling Turban. I was just amazed, again and again, as I pulled each item out of the bag. Each dress has been in a bag in a cupboard, so they were all in great condition. My only problem was how to get them home? Cue two extra suitcases and a huge excess baggage bill!
On my final weekend at the Adelaide Fringe that year, I had a lovely couple bring their 93 year old mother to the show. She was so beautiful, and reminded me so much of my favourite great aunt. She absolutely loved the show, and afterwards she came to tell me how much she enjoyed it. She said that she still had her going away gloves from her wedding in 1953, and she wondered whether I would like them? She didn’t think that her children would want them, and she’d love them to go to a good home where they would be loved. I almost cried at her generosity. Her daughter-in-law dropped them off to me and when I opened them I was stunned. Navy blue, butter soft suede, softly ruched at the wrist and made in France and in absolutely perfect condition, and they fitted me perfectly. So, so incredibly beautiful.
I’m planning to go back in 2014 with my brand new show that I’m previewing in Edinburgh this year (Lili la Scala Sings Songs She Likes and Hopes You Like too!) and I hope there is more glorious vintage just waiting for me.
What exciting vintage treasure trove stories do you have? I’d love to hear them.