Interested in channeling your inner Jean Seberg in Breathless? That ooh-la-la, je ne sais quoi that designers today, from Rodarte to Marc Jacobs, pepper into their collections. Think unfussy striped dresses, a sweet rounded collar, perhaps some little ladylike gloves. Or maybe you feel inspired by Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass, twirling in 1960s fashion perfection.
Walk in to Cabaret Vintage on Queen Street in Toronto. All of your dreams are about to come true.
First you’ll meet Tao. The friend everyone wants to have. He wears a bow tie, he kisses you on both cheeks, and he helps you find the little gems that make you feel gamine, or va va voom, depending on your mood. He’s also kind. Incredibly welcoming with a big smile, and warm eyes. I hate walking into a shop and feeling like the people working there are just too cool for school, silently judging my choices. Tao is not that. He’s the kid that invites you to sit at his lunch table and gives you half of his PB&J. And the 11 year old version of me with crazy curly hair and a gap in my teeth really appreciates that.
I began shopping there a few years ago, and find myself going back when I want to feel like Alice in Wonderland — fully swept up in a fantastical world, where everything is dreamy through this proverbial looking glass.
Now I’ll admit that vintage is still something I find overwhelming — I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing a costume, yet I love a throwback like it’s nobody’s business. So I deconstruct it as a chef would when they’re composing a balanced plate. If there’s something salty, add something sweet. That’s been the easiest way for me to make sense of it all. So using that same formula: 1940s eyelet lace tea dress? Add a cropped leather jacket, like this one I got from Club Monaco. That precious embroidered mini shrug that could air on the side of saccharin, noxious, too much honey in your morning tea, sweet? Add some destructed boyfriend jeans.
It’s the dichotomy between old and new/ edgy and classic that creates a harmonious and original look. And for me, that is what fashion – vintage or otherwise – is all about.