I rarely buy from auction for RARE vintage because I prefer to know the history of the pieces I acquire for the store. It is not just a dress I buy, but its story too.
Joan Juliet Buck wrote an essay in the fall Bergdorf Goodman magazine on borrowing versus owning a dress for an important event and it really captured the personal story that clothing can have and the love it gets imbued with.
From Dressing for the Heights by Joan Juliet Buck
At twenty-four I had arrived. I wore borrowed couture.
But it wasn't the total treat I had expected. Nothing ever fit quite right because these were model clothes made on girls taller and flatter than I was. I could never relax in borrowed clothes. There was the tedious avoiding of spills, stairs and effusive drinks. The kind of dancing I liked was often impossible because of the tight cut of silk and satin, and the next day I had to return the dress.
I began to write books. For my first book party, I bought a velvet suit at Saint Laurent and wore it for the next seven years. Each time I wore it, I had fun. It was so feel cut I was put on the Best-Dressed list.
When my second book came out, I borrowed a book-tour wardrobe from Saint Laurent couture. I was thrilled. Among the suits was a satin number in deep magenta that I imagined was the expression of something deeply personal I wore it to parties for my novel given in houses of such grandeur that guests came to look at ceiling details and legendary jewel-encrusted moldings, not me in my Saint Laurents.
At the end of the book tour, I returned all the clothes. A little while later I saw Catherine Deneuve at a movie premiere wearing my magenta satin suit.
My book tour suit.
Her movie launch suit.
It was terrible. It was if I'd borrowed Catherine Deneuve's mojo, and now she'd gotten it back, and even the memory of that mojo was gone, because there were more pictures of her in my suit, then there were of me in my suit. so it was more her suit than mine. So it was if it had never been mine. Which, of course, it had not.
And this gets to the most interesting point, which is that clothes are personal magic. which can neither be borrowed nor loaned but can be lost. When I was twenty-four and had to return a ball dress that I had worn to enchant and had been enchanted in, the enchantment went out the door. The consequences may have hung around for awhile - some dead flowers, the man himself, a new liking for a certain song, new friends, sore feet - but the feeling left.
Gala dresses are made of fabrics designed to summon high spirits: Lace is made to catch them, satin for them to slide along, tulle to keep them fast and lamé is to reflect and multiply them. You can tell at once if a gala dress is going to give you wings or sink the evening. And once you wear it and see that you were right, you know that it will never let you down. Then, like a British Dowager, you will wear it for decades.
You can read the complete essay in the fall Bergdorf Goodman magazine.
Joan Juliet Buck in Vogue Russia 2011