For me, one of the most exciting parts of exploring a new area is discovering the go-to vintage and second-hand hotspots. For the past couple weeks, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to live and work in Northampton and of course, poke around all the cute vintage boutiques and thrift stores. And because what fashion class would be complete without some retail therapy, I devoted a day of class to bring my girls along for a trip. (Yes, you heard right--I'm getting paid to go shopping. I told you this was a dream job!)
On one of my personal excursions, I stopped to browse the racks at Retro Genie, and stumbled upon this darling 50s pastel plaid day dress, and instantly swooned at the sight of it. Pastel colors? Check. Ruffles? Check. Gathered circle skirt? Check. Cotton? Check. All my favorite things rolled into the perfect dress for a summer stroll! Another great thing about finding a unique piece in a new setting is that the garment is forever imprinted with associations from that specific place. I look at this dress and I remember sitting on a grassy hill in the town square with a dozen wonderful girls, eating Creamsicle ice cream accessorized with rainbow sprinkles, laughing, and periodically swatting at mosquitoes.
In a mere few weeks, this place, these girls, my fellow teachers, they've left such a mark on me. We've built forts together, styled toilet paper tea party outfits, decorated cupcakes, gone on scavenger hunts, embraced impromptu dance parties, belted out songs at karaoke night, perfected the art of polka dot nail designs, listened to and performed spoken word poetry, watched live music in the town square, explored art museums, ironed and hot glue-gunned fabric as well as our fingers, bleached and dyed denim and t-shirts, bedazzled collars and hems, designed and painted custom stencils, upcycled 70s maxi dresses, crafted flower crowns and beaded collar necklaces, flaunted our fabulousness on the runway, and swapped spooky stories about the ghost of Sylvia Plath.
It’s funny, I want to remember everything, I want to document it, and I want to share it, but I feel as though every summary I create of my experience is somehow watered-down and incomplete. Coming to terms with that is frustrating for me because writing is my way of making sense of things. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.” So, it’s hard to have so many thoughts and feelings that transcend a written rendering. But then again, there’s also something really lovely about that, the notion of being a part of something so full-dimensional and singular that pinning it down is nearly impossible. This is a story I will carry with me forever in vivid color. In my clothes, in my notebooks, in the pictures and videos the girls took on my phone, in the emails they send me, and all of my camp artifacts, but most importantly, with me.
This dress will always warmly remind me of my month-long dream job in Northampton and all the people that made that place feel like home.
1950s Pastel Plaid Day Dress ~ Retro Genie (Northampton, MA)
Seychelles Pastel Pink Oxford Pumps ~ Buffalo Exchange
1950s Wicker Purse with Bakelite Handle ~ Cheshire Cat (South Kingstown, RI)
Double Strand Green Pearls ~ a gift from my mother
Photography by Yenny Shim