I’ve been a big know-it-all for quite some time now. Well, actually, I was a bigger know-it-all when I was younger. Now the older I get, the less I know, and the happier I am about that! I think I could write about ten more paragraphs on that mind shift alone but it’s only because I’m trying to delay telling you how wrong I’ve been for so long.
This is what I said to audiences and in print while in my late 30s, early 40s (cringe, cringe):
As you age, don’t wear vintage. Vintage on older women makes them look older. Save that look for the young people.
There’s a chorus line of vintage lovers in my head right now (“I’m eating my words! I love you guys!”) who are reading this and shaking their heads. I’m glad this is a blog and you can’t throw your homegrown organic tomatoes at me.
Fast forward to current time: If vintage was a political party, I’d be leaning in. I can’t leave my modern political party altogether, but I have much more understanding of why people march for the vintage party.
“Duh,” you say. “You just noticed? We’ve seen this coming for a while, Brenda.”
Inching ever closer to joining the vintage party
You’re right. Here’s me this spring in my yellow vintage coat purchased at an antique collective in Novato. I love the color, the silhouette, the way it reminds me of Mother, the way it feels on my body, the pockets, and the made up story I have (it could be true!) that the person who originally wore it had a lot of fun in it, and now I do, too. (Falling Hard for the Color Yellow is here.)
And here I am carrying a vintage python bag that I used to only use for table decorations at home Oscar parties or to decorate a shelf in my office. One day I looked at it and thought, Why am I not bringing this out into the world? Now it travels with me on client shopping trips, lunch with friends, and waffles on Saturday with Russ at the Sunflower Cafe on the Sonoma Plaza.
Here I’m wearing a vintage hat that a client was going to toss after her 96-year-old mother passed away. It was so pretty; I couldn’t bear the thought of it losing its place in life. My client said, “You like it, why don’t you take it?” Okay, I said. I found a companion for the hat when I discovered this vintage blue sparkly brooch at the Petaluma Antique Faire. So you can see, I’ve been slipping over to the vintage side for a short while now!
(More about the anatomy of this outfit, mixing vintage with modern.)
It was love at first sight when I spotted the vintage Louis Vuitton bag at SAX
So let’s pedal forward to this month. Caitlin called from work enticing me to stop by her and her sister’s consignment store in San Anselmo, SAX. What was she using for bait? A slice of her homemade peach-nectarine pie. Now who says no to that? Not me!
While I was having my slice of pie, I looked over at the mirror on the wall behind their front counter. This LV bag was hanging off of it. With each bite of pie, I’d look over at it again and again.
“Caitlin, can I see that bag?” I said. She handed it to me. I put it over my shoulder and the fit and size was perfect. I’ve never had an interest in having a logo bag like this but there was something about the fact that it was older and a bit worn at the edges that endeared me to it.
Erin, the other half of the sister team at SAX, had stopped by for pie as well. I showed her the bag on me. “What do you think?”
She said, “Well, it looks good on you!”
Before I purchased it, Erin wanted me to be sure I saw that the fabric on the inside pocket was a bit worn. Then she pointed out the leather corners of the bag and how they weren’t perfect, like maybe they’d encountered water and gotten stained. While inspecting the bag Erin’s words got fainter while my inner voice got louder. I was having a conversation in my head while Erin was disclosing all of its “as is” qualities. My hand was lovingly placed on the front of the bag. I was telling it, “It’s okay, Sweetie, I love you just the way you are!”
I’m in my 60s. Along with not having to be such a no-it-all all the time, things don’t have to be perfect either. They can be good enough.
My heart did a switch-er-oo and suddenly I was talking to myself in that same loving and accepting way. “Brenda, you’re imperfect and a bit worn around the edges; you’re showing your age. And it’s okay. I love you, just the way you are.” My eyes glazed over with tears as I pretended to be paying attention to Erin. Even as I recall that moment now, the tears are back and falling on the keyboard, harder now. In my mind I see myself walking through the tough and lonely times in my life, times when even I wasn’t on my side.
I want to give myself a big hug and say, “It’s okay, Sweetie. It’s okay, I’m here.”
It’s easy to love others and to love things, but how often do we feel love and kindness for ourselves? Something about accepting the imperfection of this bag has opened a conversation with my older and maybe wiser self…I’m letting love in.
On my first day of carrying my new-old LV bag, I slipped into jeans and a linen blouse. I used one of Russ’ ties as a belt. When we got home from having waffles at Sunflower Cafe I pulled out my copy of The Art of Dressing: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style by the famously vintage-loving Tziporah Salamon. I attended a workshop of hers in San Francisco in January. I was so impressed. When her book came out in April I bought several copies for friends.
I sat on the porch devouring every image and every word. I’m eager to learn about the art of dressing from people who do it differently than I do. Along with that, I want to explore the art of loving myself. I think that’s a bi-partisan effort that we could all get behind. Shall we call a vote?
june carnesJuly 27, 2017 at 2:06 am
I love your sense of style and how you put things together Brenda. My girlfriend and I are late followers of your blog and we devour it.
We are always seeing people and saying” Oh, she’s a Brenda” meaning she knows the value of presenting and treasuring herself.
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 6:18 pm
Okay, this is the most precious thing! If birdies are talking in my ear, I’ll suspect its you and your girlfriends! So very glad you found the blog. Thanks!!!
CarolAugust 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm
Hi Brenda. I love your blog and your style. Can you please tell me where you purchased the fabulous casual shoes you are wearing in the picture under the Postscript at the Sunflower Cafe? I’d love to find them. Thanks and keep on sharing your fashion insights!
BrendaAugust 4, 2017 at 6:53 pm
Sure, they came from a store on San Anselmo Avenue called Junction Shoes, a great place!
DianeJuly 27, 2017 at 3:25 am
Hey Brenda, you are so right. At 61 it has taken me many years to accept the person I am without measuring myself against everyone else. Just recently I told a friend that I really don’t need to be liked by the whole world, just those who really matter. I am sorry that you had so many tears over your revalation, but sometimes that is what we need to do, is it not. On a lighter note, I love to mix in a bit of someone elses history in my look from time to time. I just recently bought a book on identifying costume jewellery through the decades, and it is fun to flip through and study…I have sooo much jewellery. Love it. Thanks again for another fantastic post. You have played a huge part in accepting my “flaws” which are not always so bad. Love you.
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 7:05 pm
I’m so happy to have played a small part in helping you accept your flaws which are NOT bad!! How fun to be studying costume jewelry through the ages. I’m curious about that! And also, those tears, well, they seem to be healing tears. Love you too!
KathyJuly 27, 2017 at 3:44 am
I’m in! I just have to work on my mind set but that’s nothing new….my mother equates self love/kindness as selfishness. So, changing the song I dance to in my head is a challenge even st 61! Isn’t it strange how a purse can start us thinking about our values not our valuables?!
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 7:03 pm
Kathy, you said that beautifully! “Thinking about our values not our valuables.” I grew up that way too. Even though my folks were affectionate, the stoic Norwegian way was to not express words of love out loud. And saying nice things about yourself would make you conceited. It really is hard to rewire! It’s interesting that this handbag made me pause and think about myself this way. Thanks for sharing your comment. It opens the conversation wider for me.
Cindy La FerleJuly 27, 2017 at 4:36 am
Your post today brought a tear to my eye too. I’m right on your page (and your age), Brenda, and I loved about how your vintage bag inspired a moment of reflection. I’ve noticed you using vintage pieces here and there — not too much, just enough — and admired how you do that. By the way, I mentioned your blog and one of your books on my own blog (“Things that make me happy”) because I want to share what you do with my pals! Thanks, Brenda!
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm
Thank you, Cindy! I need to pop on over to your blog! I was just thinking that size makes a difference in shopping vintage. When I took that class from Tziporah Salamon, her vintage finds were sized well for her slight frame. Since women are bigger now than back them (from all report anyway, the average size for women is 14 or 16 right now), it’s hard to find vintage in bigger sizes. But hats and bags are sure fits for anyone! Now that my eye is more trained, I will hunt for those beautifully made pieces from the past. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find something that fits me!
Jessica56July 27, 2017 at 6:36 am
Brenda, I am enjoying your newsletters so popped over here to let you know. When I started to work part-time a few years back, a friend took me out to her favourite thrift shops. (She taught me that nicer parts of cities tend to have more interesting things) When I was working full-time I was too tired to go shopping, nevermind looking through thrift stores/vintage/consignment. I use to think it was just clutter and junk. Well she changed my mind!! She always buys the nicest clothes and things for her home and are sourced about 89% from thrift/consignment or Craigslist. (I know, we all have that one amazing friend). Since I then, I have bought some great thrift store finds at REALLY good prices. So I applaud this latest blog post.
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 6:56 pm
Thanks, Jessica. And thanks for popping over here! I am much like you, thinking consignment or thrift stores are clutter and junk. So when my daughters bought this consignment store I’ve just been stopping by there more. Truth is, both Erin and Caitlin are my curators so when things come in that they think I’ll like, they’ll put it aside so I’m hunting through the racks. Maybe because I’m already doing this professionally with clients, I’m thinking more about being in Nature than in another store. But I have to say, I spotted that purse all on my own! And the yellow coat too! So maybe, just maybe, I’m coming around. It’s great to have an amazing friend like that who can encourage you. My “friends” are my girls who are good hunters! Thanks so much for paying a visit! Do come back!
KATHYSUEJuly 27, 2017 at 10:02 am
I love reading your story and evolution as a woman. You are so inspiring and I am grateful that you share your wisdom!!
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 6:22 pm
Thank you so much, Kathysue! “Living out loud” is sometimes scary but hearing a comment like yours gives me courage!
Lisa WhiteJuly 27, 2017 at 10:38 am
I devoured every word of this post….so incredible! Love vintage mixed with new…best looks ever! Thank you for sharing your “vintage time-line”. I think the reason Vintage is so popular is that is was so well designed and crafted …so well in fact that it is still here and looking better for it!
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 6:21 pm
You’re so right and I learned that a lot from taking Tziporah’s class. Her treasures were so amazing. I’d never seen things made so well. It’s fun to discovering something new-to-me in the world of fashion! Thanks, Lisa!
Denise LampronJuly 27, 2017 at 12:07 pm
I cast my vote for self-love. What’s a little patina on a vintage LV? It has soul. Wear it in good health!
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 6:20 pm
Yay, another vote for self-love! Thanks, I’m enjoying wearing this bag and listening to what it has to say!
elena daciukJuly 27, 2017 at 2:14 pm
yay!!!! really loving all the vintage coming into play…you’ve acquired some absolute treasures…i have to say…i never never knew that you used to say “As you age, don’t wear vintage…” – glad THAT is out of your system… =) welcome to the beautiful world of vintage…
BrendaJuly 27, 2017 at 6:19 pm
I was so thinking of you when I was writing that post! I suspected you’d be throwing those organic tomatoes at me if you could. You are my vintage inspiration, my friend. Thanks for letting into the club! xo
CaraJuly 27, 2017 at 9:45 pm
I love vintage & shop almost exclusively in thrift stores (because I don’t want to support the consumer machine and buying secondhand is good for the environment and the community). I have to agree with your former stance somewhat about the perils of vintage as we get older. When I was young, I’d wear really funky vintage stuff, and it really couldn’t age me because I was young!
Now I’m much more careful because I realize that it can seem as if those items are just things I’ve had since they were in style and I’m hopelessly an old fogey.
I still do wear vintage, just a lot more judiciously and sparingly now; I want it to be obvious that it’s a deliberate choice.
Thanks for all your advice and humor.
BrendaJuly 28, 2017 at 10:32 am
Ah, okay then! Sharing your experience is great. That was the point I made when I was younger, that I thought people who are young can really pull that all off so well. I had a friend who was an excellent example of this. So with your cautionary tale, we just are more judicious as you say. You’ve redeemed me a bit. Thanks for making these points and enjoy your vintage however you weave into your outfits!
MaggieJuly 28, 2017 at 5:22 am
I only discovered your blog within the last month, and I’m so glad I did. This post really speaks to me. At 62 I’m worn around the edges but still hoping I can have a stylish encore or two. Brava, Brenda!
BrendaJuly 28, 2017 at 10:30 am
Maggie, I love the way you phrased that. YES to the stylish encore or two. Brilliant! Glad you discovered us over here. Welcome, welcome.
Jane Dalea-KahnJuly 28, 2017 at 9:51 pm
Brenda. You’re spot on about avoiding vintage after a certain age. I’ve always hated it myself and I agree, it can accelerate aging…I LOVE the yellow coat. It’s vintage but the silhouette is modern and the color is fresh – so it works. The LV bag always works as does the python. I do object to the little old lady hat and the brooch though – horrible. I favor modern, clean lines myself and too much vintage can make one look like a crazy old lady.
stephanie ashworthJuly 30, 2017 at 5:16 am
I love this post. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. It’s not always easy accepting the aging process. I also want to tell you how much I love the wardrobe worksheets. I started yesterday with making outfits for my basic ankle length black pants. No wonder I never have anything to wear! Thanks to the worksheet I was able to see I have some holes to fill. I thought I needed more tops but what I really need is some more shoes. That one pair of AGL flats doesn’t work with everything! Thank you.
BrendaJuly 31, 2017 at 9:09 pm
Stephanie, I am so very glad you’re using the wardrobe worksheets! What you said is exactly true: people have much more than they realize once they put things into outfits! I love what you discovered. Yippee! Good luck shopping for shoes!
classic•casual•homeJuly 30, 2017 at 10:34 am
Beautifully written, Brenda. My daughter loves vintage shopping (we will have to go to your daughter’s when she is here in November)…I usually don’t find much in vintage stores. But some of my own favorites (especially Chanel) are feeling vintage even though I had them when they were new… but I am going to give those babies a rerun!
BrendaJuly 31, 2017 at 9:11 pm
Yay! Yes, give them a rerun. Erin and I were talking with a client today about Chanel jackets and how well they’re made. Nothing quite like them. Oh, I want to come play in your closet!
KathyAugust 12, 2017 at 12:17 pm
I grew up in a New England town where, the wealthiest women dressed the least fashionably. Plain Keds, jeans, old jacket, gray hair. These people were so “old money” they didn’t need to prove anything. To have something new was not cool, and we dirtied up our shoes as soon as possible. So, even though I’m in my 60’s, I don’t have a problem buying vintage bags, or luggage. It just means, I’ve had money so long, that I bought this bag ages ago, and, I don’t have to have “the latest” to be comfortable with myself.
BrendaAugust 13, 2017 at 3:29 pm
I love it! The goal is always to feel comfortable with yourself and you’re doing it. It’s so interesting to learn about the different attitudes people have about clothes. Love reading this!
Klaudia napolitanoNovember 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm
Hi Brenda l love your blog. You recently caught my eye while searching vintage LV bags because I fell in love with your beautiful bracket. I live in Australia and searched the web trying to find something similar without success. Could you tell me where you got the bracelet ? It’s beautiful thanks
BrendaNovember 21, 2017 at 7:07 am
If it’s the one I’m wearing with the jeans and the man’s tie as a belt, it’s an Alexis Bittar one. I got it at Nordstrom I believe but our Nordstrom isn’t carrying that brand anymore although I have seen it at TJ Maxx!