Unique Vintage Dress of the Month: March 2017

One very long month ago, before my favorite clothier announced its soul was up for auction, I got an email from another vintage-inspired apparel company I’d been flirting with: Unique Vintage. I found UV much the same way I met ModCloth; a creepy and invasive algorithm that derived my bottomless pit of need for quirky retro threads and flashed their busy prints in my periphery.

I’m actually a really reluctant online shopper, and I’ve had bad experiences with Etsy shops and their custom vintage dresses. Although I played with UV’s shop-by-decade feature and survived some serious heart palpitations when I noticed their entire Disney Dapper Day subcategory, it wasn’t until my mom accidentally got me a gift card for them at Christmas (she mixed them up with Bernie Dexter) that I was committed to giving them an honest try.

So that email. “Vintage Dress of the Month Club!”

I held the phone.

I made my way to the front room in order to shut the front door.

For $50 a month, UV would deliver a dress from their current collection to my doorstep. Most of their dresses fall in the $80-120 range (plus $7 flat rate shipping via the hellscape that is FedEx Smartpost, and with an easy-to-snag 10% off for newsletter sign up), which makes it a potential honest-to-blog cost-effective way to try a new outfit every month.

The first and only fashion subscription I’ve had was a short stint with Stitch Fix several years ago, which was simply too expensive and iffy for me to continue. At that time their size options topped out at XL/size 14 (now expanded up to 3X with W sizes), which I can usually wear but that ability can be sketch depending on the brand and style. I’m a 2X in Unique Vintage and Bernie Dexter dresses, and a 3X with Tatyana. Paying $20 for the privilege of trying on stuff that may or may not fit, and then cost around $60-80 per piece if I fell in love, didn’t make for a heavenly match.

UV made things inclusive and easy. $50 with a size range of XS-4X, with the option to send back any dud for a full credit for the next month. It would be tragic not to at least TRY, right?

I stalked my box as it made its way from Burbank to Kent, Washington to Salem, Oregon to finally, my house (I HATE FEDEX SMARTPOST WITH EVERY ATOM OF MY BEING) this afternoon. After work, I ran to my car. Anticipation is happiness, and as the daughter of a 30-year mail carrier, a present by parcel holds an irresistible hit of nostalgia for me. Yes, I could take that same $50 to Nordstrom Rack and precisely pick out something new. But it’s 2017. We all need a little more joy in our lives, and the kind of excitement that doesn’t involve another Washington Post Alert delivering the latest travesty directly to my palm.

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Thanks for the affirmations, box! Enjoy the recycle bin.

I opened the corners and peeked, just like Christmas.

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Polka dots! And a hint of navy! “Don’t you already have a navy polka dotted dress?” My husband Matt wanted to know. I had to explain that no, that’s a navy polka dotted tunic to wear with leggings, duh.

As I removed the garment from its plastic sheath, the layers came apart in my hands. Oh no, I realized. It’s a wrap dress.

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A few years ago I read a fawning profile on Diane Von Furstenberg and her “iconic,” “indispensable,” “coveted” wrap dresses that were “essential” to every woman’s wardrobe. “Universally flattering,” it claimed. I had never owned a wrap dress. What magical kimono fusion was I missing out on?

For months afterward I picked up wrap dresses at Banana Republic, Anthropologie and Ann Taylor Loft, and experienced the same dressing room humiliation over and over. The fabric stretched around my torso and ended at my boobs. They were, apparently, much too much for the wrap dress to handle. It yawned open and plunged to my navel in a Jennifer-Lopez-at-the-2000-Grammys Versace throwback. I gave up and swore them off. Once again my body refused to be universal.

I could have shoved it back in the box for better luck in April, but that would negate most of the point of Dress of the Month. I sent a quick prayer to the gods of accurate sizing, stepped up to the mirror, and wrapped.

The problem, I discovered, was not me or the wrap dress. It was a wrap dress that refused to accept that D-cups exist. The polka dots met hip-to-hip without a struggle, tied without a scene, and gave an unexpected level of lift to my usually-hidden boobs. The fabric is that rare mix of thick and sturdy but also twirlable and ridiculously soft. It’s currently on the site at $82, so I’m practically being paid money here, plus cute spring option dividends.

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Real talk: It’s tough to look like a spring garden creature when you have SUV-parking neighbors, and your heels are sinking in what is very much still pure Oregon mud.

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