Find Yourself in ’82

A while back I wrote about Aubrey and I buying clothes at a local thrift store, with the intention of upcycling them and putting them on Etsy. In spite of my proclamation that we would not buy anymore clothes until we did something with the first batch, Aubrey talked me into going on a Thursday, because that’s the first day of the new week’s batch. I needed some fancier materials to play around with, and even though everything is $1.75 on Thursdays instead of $.50 on Tuesdays, after pricing fabrics, I knew it was a much better deal…plus the waistbands and zippers and buttonholes are already in.

Never having been there on a Thursday before, I discovered that it is a different crowd than on Tuesdays. Many of the people there are Thursday morning regulars, some even showing up at 7am. We were there at 10am, and I found myself in a group of women who were searching through the racks to help one of the women find suitable clothes for a new office job. Since I’ve worked in human resources before, I offered up my recommendations on what is suitable and what isn’t: nothing low cut, nothing too short, nothing sleeveless unless it comes with a jacket, nothing too tight. I know, it’s a lot of nothings, but you’d be amazed (and horrified) at what some people think is appropriate office wear. I’ve seen women show up to work in outfits that I wouldn’t be caught clubbing in.

As we scoured the racks, I started rattling off a list of safe brands; J. Jill, Coldwater Creek, Chico’s, Adrienne Papel, etc…all of which are assured to be professional and tasteful, while still being fun. At the end of one rack were a dozen or so trench coats. I quickly went through them and hit the jackpot with the very last one. It was a Burberry, in almost new condition, with all the belts and lining in place. The lining was what gave it away, of course, but unless one recognizes the Burberry plaid, one would miss it entirely. Since I already own multiple vintage coats and jackets, I handed it over to the newly professional woman, and told her she wouldn’t find a more professional trench coat, and that it was worth about $500. She tried it on, and other than being a bit long in the sleeve, it fit her well. She asked me if I was letting her take it (there is a thrift store etiquette revolving around finders keepers) which I thought went without question.

Meanwhile, Aubrey was scouring racks of her own. We have a thrift store system that we developed when she was in 5th grade. We each take a basket, fill it to overflowing, then meet up and compare finds, putting back about half until we’re down to one overflowing basket. Then we go through again, looking for stains, tears, or snags. That cuts it down another 25% or so. We try on what’s left, and usually end up with a dozen or so items for each of us, unless we’re only shopping for Aubrey.

Aub started holding up hanger after hanger for my approval, and in her pile was a Scott McClintock floor length strapless gown in a pale blue with black embroidery and tiny rhinestones. Even though it is a size 4, and Aubrey is generally a size negative .5, because McClintock gowns run small (both the Scott and the Jessica varieties), it fit her like a dream. She also found a Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax dress. That one is a short black dress with a tulle frill peeping out from the hem, with a light pink center accent that has black ribbon corset lacing. It also fits her like it was tailored to her.

I told her that I thought that one must be vintage, because I haven’t seen the Gunne Sax label since I was in high school. It turns out that it has been around for quite a bit longer than that, but out of curiosity, Aubrey searched Etsy for vintage Gunne Sax just to see what was out there. We were scrolling through the dresses and when we got to the second page, I saw a dress that looked EXACTLY like a dress that my mom made me from a Gunne Sax pattern. It had the poofy sleeves fitted at the wrist, ribbon around the waist, and tiny pearl buttons down the front of the bodice. The Etsy dress was knee length, while mine was tea length, but that was really the only difference.


Aubrey thought it was hilarious that I had ever worn such a frilly thing. My mom made it for cotillion, so I was in 8th grade, so it was 1982. I had a really BAD poodle perm, too much eye makeup, and zero breasts, but at the time, I thought I looked amazing. Of course, looking at pictures from that era is just scary sad and horrifying. Seriously, could my hair have gotten any bigger?

We scrolled through about 50 or 60 dresses, with my pointing out the other patterns that I’d worn. Does anyone else remember the prairie style skirts with the blouses that had giant rectangular collars in the front that were edged with lace? I had at least three of those outfits.

I think the most ridiculous dress I ever wore was one that had long sleeves, was mid-calf, and had a cummerbund. The dress itself was kind of a shapeless tent, so the cummerbund wasn’t really optional. However, the worst thing about that dress was the juvenile lollipop pattern…I was in 9th grade. Stop laughing! It’s quite fortunate for Aubrey that my mom not only made the dress, but encouraged me to wear it (seriously, it was better than birth control pills); I never forgot the humiliation endured from my peers. Hence when Aubrey would want to wear something absolutely laughable, I wouldn’t allow it. I told her that she would eventually thank me for not letting her out of the house in some of the outfits she picked out.

All that’s changed now. Instead of my giving Aubrey a yay or nay on an outfit, I seek out her approval. I just wish she’d been around in 1984 to stop me from wearing the lollipop dress.

“What were the things you wanted for yourself? Teenage ambitions you remember well…”


5 thoughts on “Find Yourself in ’82

  1. these bring back memories, my mum used to make dresses just like this for me! x

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