The Joy of Vintage

From the minute the door of the musky shop rings to welcome me in, all of my senses become engaged: the beautiful whiff of mothballs up my nostrils, the first glimpse of the treasures calling out to be discovered, the sound of the shopkeeper’s hands rubbing together in glee at the sight of muggins enthusiastically entering the store … and so the journey begins.

I can feel the blood that runs through my veins begin to rush as I spot the corner of what is sure to be a must-have gem. On realising the full garment is just as beautiful as the peeking fabric teased, my eye develops a twitch and I start to giggle manically with anticipation. The absolute and overwhelming joy however comes when I’ve taken the dress behind the flowery curtain, am mid try-on and as the rusty zip rises all of my hopes are realised … IT FITS!

You see with Vintage there is no ‘up a size’; with vintage there is no ‘other colour’. When a vintage dress fits you like a glove you know without doubt you will not leave the store without it. It had been waiting for you to find it and now is just the start of your beautiful, unique friendship.

Once I’ve made the purchase and leave the shop my mind begins to wonder as to who originally owned the piece and what they did when they wore it. I have gowns that bring me to bygone eras of visiting soldiers and cabaret clubs. I imagine the blouse on my back was worn to a first ever day at work in a male dominated, smoky office. I decide the pair of old gloves were part of an outfit that visited race days in London and in which hands were guided out of beautiful cars by perfect gentlemen.

Yes for me vintage buying is the most romantic of experiences. And as I’m happily immersed in my fanciful thoughts my best friend happens across the latest item. As she warily approaches it her nose begins to turn up and the sides of her mouth turn down. She begins to scratch her body and quizzes me on how much older my ‘new bag’ is than me? She tells me in no uncertain terms that my wearing of these used ‘cast-offs’ frankly makes her question my level of hygiene and then, in case I was in any doubt about her feelings on the matter, suggests to me that the original owner was probably a lady of the night with very little access to soap that now likely lies 6 foot under and will probably haunt my wardrobe.

Way to burst a bubble…


19 Comments on The Joy of Vintage

  1. Cathy O'Donohoe
    June 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm (8 years ago)

    I can actually smell the shop and look forward to more..

  2. Dervla C
    June 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi Irene,
    GREAT blog! What are your fav vintage shops in Dublin? Dervla

    • ireneob
      June 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks for your comments Dervla! I think for pure fanciful indulgence my favorite Dublin vintage store has to be Jenny Vander on Drury St. Although a purchase from here would be a rare treat, I love visiting this store to admire the fabulous antique jewelery and to enquire about the wonderful gowns on display. The staff are incredibly well informed and every visit makes you feel like you’re being allowed a special peak into a bygone starlet’s dressing room :)

  3. Eleanore Gay
    June 9, 2010 at 9:06 pm (8 years ago)

    Inspirational – I want to find the vintage dress that fits me perfectly and therefore belongs to me…. and I look forward to all the fun that will bring, including befriending the ghost of my very own lady-of-the-night x

  4. Connie Reid
    June 10, 2010 at 11:22 am (8 years ago)

    Your Mom, Irene, or perhaps your Grandmother would remember a wonderful Irish designer and model, also Irene – Irene Gilbert. Certainly this hat could have been modelled, or even designed by her, and I am pretty sure I can remember a black and white newspaper photo of Irene G wearing an elegant suit and a hat similar to this one. Think about arranging for we bloggers or all ages arranging a get-together -maybe a lunch some time, where we all arrive in vintage…! Could be a target date for narrowing our waistlines ! Looking forward to reading more. C

    • ireneob
      June 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm (8 years ago)

      Connie, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about Irene Gilbert – thank you so much for mentioning her to me. During me research I have found many references to a book called ‘A history of the Irish fashion industry’ by Robert O’Byrne which chronicles the development of the Irish fashion industry since 1950s. Although it now seems to be out of print, I found a used copy online and am awaiting its arrival with anticipation :) I think the lunch is a fabulous idea which I will certainly look into organising… and I’ll be sure to bring the book for us to have a look at together on the day!

  5. Serena Mulrennan
    June 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm (8 years ago)

    what a delight to read. I love that feeling wen something fits, so want to go shopping.

  6. C. D'Arcy
    June 13, 2010 at 11:45 am (8 years ago)

    Irene, I loved the piece and returned in my mind to a couple of similar shops I’ve browsed in. I have always had a love for vintage. Keep up the good work and the writing. C

  7. Leontia
    June 15, 2010 at 11:46 pm (8 years ago)

    Irene would you believe I worked on a book launch for Robert o Byrne many moons ago! It wasn’t the one you mentioned unfortunately. Anyways, post a few pics from the book when you get it if you can. Looking forward to your next post.

  8. Marian Reid
    June 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi Irene,
    I really enjoyed reading this. I don’t know much about
    vintage clothes but would like to learn more. Will you br writing more?

  9. Natasha Reid
    June 16, 2010 at 10:14 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh Irene, you paint a really vivid picture. I’d love to see your collection of gowns sometime. And I’m totally up for that vintage lunch that Connie suggested. I have nothing vintage to wear yet but that would be an excuse to invest! Looking forward to your next entertaining blog x

  10. Ann Margaret
    June 17, 2010 at 8:51 am (8 years ago)

    It fascinaes me how beautiful the vintage clothes look on young people, but I feel that for older folks 60 plus) they look like we’ve never moved on!

    The bit about the gloves was terrific. Vintage is not vintage without them!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading that piece. If you write more, do I receive it automatically? I do hope so.

  11. Connie Reid
    June 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm (8 years ago)

    I think the last words in first paragraph, of Ann Margaret’s comment ‘never moved on’ might be replaced by – ‘we have spread out’. (around our middle !)

    A vintage piece combined with elegant modern can be stunning. And no two people will be at a function in the same outfit !

    Incidentally, I believe a new vintage shop and a new ladies shop are about to open in Drury Street in Dublin. Synergy ! ? I think your blog is only starting Irene ! Keep us posted.

  12. marion lyons
    June 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm (8 years ago)


    I was trasfixed and smelt and felt every emmotion which you tantalisingly described. You are so literary and creative and thank you for taking me into your mystique. I want to learn more.

  13. Lauren Lyons
    June 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm (8 years ago)

    Evening Joy of Vintage

    A very trendy Aunty put me on to this site. Beautiful words. I love Vintage clothes that you fall in love with, you’re lucky enough to be able to do the zip up (with or without big pants on) and then when you get it home and inspect it further you find its homemade! all the history in those tiny perfect stitches, brilliant.

    be back soon Lauren

  14. greta lyons
    June 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm (8 years ago)

    what a lovely romantic story of shopping, I love vintage clothes, as did my sister Maureen. She gave me a beautiful vintage cashmere coat, (which originally came with foxfur collar!!!, fortunately, my mother made a velvet collar for it. Like you I feel a frisson of excitement at the history of the garment. Far more exciting than the clothes we generally buy which have been made, often, sadly, in a sweatshop environment. good hunting ……

  15. Sharon Reid
    July 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm (8 years ago)

    Love this Irene. You whisked me away for a few minutes. I know what you mean when you zip it up and ‘IT FITS’, cos if it does not fit, you must leave it there! I’m definitely on for a vintage lunch, brilliant idea. I got two great dresses this year, but they’re both winter dresses. Love them though, they’re both elegant and fit perfectly. I confess it was my other half who spotted them both in a window and told me that they could work on my album cover. So the following Saturday we both got up early to get into town to queue outside the shop (they wouldn’t take them out of the window display until Saturday) and … they both fitted. And, now one of them is on my album cover. Yay. Looking forward to more from you Irene. x

  16. Clare Deveney
    August 10, 2010 at 9:50 am (8 years ago)

    Amazing blog. I LOVE it… You look so beautiful at the races. Dying to read more xxx

  17. Yvonne Carroll
    October 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm (7 years ago)

    hi Irene,
    came across this blog through a friend and as someone who would normally have no interest in fashion let along vintage fashion i now find myself eagerly waiting for the next post. please keep them coming and you never know i might actually make my way to one of these vintage shops/fairs before too long.


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