I was startled when she told me she was 91. She didn't look a day over 75. Sharp as a tack with brilliant taste.
I try to buy privately as much as I can, usually by referral. It's the easiest way to acquire new merchandise for me. Emotionally, it's not always easy.
Today I met Doris. I learned about her life. It was the story of a solid happy life. I bought some vintage clothing and handbags. The furniture and objects were being handled by various other parties.
As she prepared to move into a small one bedroom assisted living apartment I could see it wouldn't fit. This was something I did say to her gently at one point but I knew she didn't hear me (and at 91 she can definitely still hear).
As we talked, i realized how hard leaving her home since 1957 would be. The cutest mid century modern tri-level with exquisite furnishings. I could see the wheels turning as she ran through important moments and people of her life and I listened.
I took in stories and asked her about living in Chicago in the 40's and 50's. Her husband came from New Orleans and his father was a tailor and made suits for gangsters. Her mother-in-law's original 1920 dress from her wedding was also in this group. Most likely beyond repair but I couldn't leave it behind. See it below.
As I listened I felt her pain. I sensed she had no regrets, but sensed sadness.
This move that would be the end of that life, 70 years of marriage, family, travel. Doris married her husband in 1948 they had a long and happy life together. He passed away recently. Her wedding dress from 1948 wasn't a wedding dress, it was a stunning custom-made dress in a color. Helen had great taste right from the beginning and was not afraid to be different. She was positive and upbeat talked about who she would be lunching with at her new place.
It's seems like it'd be easy to say, wow, you're 91 you've got your wits about you, you look incredible and I hope I'm you when I'm 91.
I think I would be grateful but I don't know I would feel complete happiness. When I put myself in her position and thought about Jim being gone, and me selling objects to someone like me? Telling my stories?
Her 1950's suit is to die for. I know a vintage lover will pick up this up and love to know who wore it and I know who and where. She was pleased I cared and had the ability to look back in time and smile as I thought of her wearing it on Michigan Avenue.
Who won't ask -- where did you get that? It's classic and timeless. It's hard to get this kind of quality and clothing today. Unless you're extremely wealthy and are buying clothes or a whole new level. But your average shopper is not.
Doris said, nobody lives forever and we probably shouldn't. She's probably right.
We negotiated and made a deal and I took my goods and said goodbye. I got into my car emotionally exhausted. The Business of Vintage is personal. These are real people. We may not know them but they are people just like our family and friends. It is part of buying estates and buying from people directly. You stand in their shoes and see their lives. It's important to be empathetic.
I am not as attached to physical objects as I once was. I try to focus on what I need around me. I see the sadness in putting emotions in animate objects. It happens a lot and I don't want this to happen to me but I love vintage and want it to live on! So I do use pieces for decor, or wear or use!
Vintage matters. The original objects we can keep in circulation. The work and actual craftsmanship in clothes and furniture no less! I love that I know that about her and her story. These pieces will live on and the memories and stories will it. Her style and creativity lives on. Vintage matters.
The Business of Vintage is Personal