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Maureen Festa, an award-winning costumer for America’s oldest community theatre, The Footlight Club. She’s pictured here in a vintage dress that belonged to her grandmother.


I’ll tell you the truth: every now and then I think about the amount of time and focus I give to blogging and I feel that I’m a little off my rocker. I’ll tell myself it’s all nonsense–that I need to give it up and focus on practical areas of life that matter more. But blogging is so much more to me than a hobby. In the same way I’ve bonded with people over a mutual love of books, my blog has united me with friends from all over the globe.

One of them is Maureen Festa. We’ve never met face to face, but we know each other because we’ve been communicating back and forth almost since the beginning of Dressed Her Days Vintage. A few weeks ago we finally arranged a phone call. We could have talked for hours, but we timed the call for 9 p.m. and we both had to get up for work the next day. If she lived nearby, I know we’d be the closest of friends.

Maureen is a development researcher at MIT. As the product of a family who worked in textiles, she is no stranger to vintage clothing. By necessity, her mother grew up as a thrifter and passed that trait to Maureen, who still remembers one of her first vintage pieces––a pink cotton raincoat she bought at a thrift store when she was 10. The coat was at least 30 years old, but it was a favorite for years to come.

Maureen has a deep love of history. That gives her a great eye as an award-winning costumer for America’s oldest community theatre, The Footlight Club. She is also a trustee of Eliot Hall, a notable Greek Revival building that’s been home to the Footlight Club since 1878. The Hall was built in 1831 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here are Maureen’s tips for dressing well and shopping vintage and thrift:

Learn the value of tailoring. People complain that they can’t find anything to fit in vintage stores, but you shouldn’t expect things to fit right off the rack. If a garment is worth having, it’s worth tailoring.

Choose vintage accessories. Maybe your size is difficult to find. But you can always choose some wonderful vintage jewelry, hats, gloves or fancy accessories.

Know what you can wear without looking ridiculous. I have a vintage taffeta slip that’s so gorgeous you could wear it as a dress. But I wouldn’t because I can’t pull it off. I would look like I was wearing my underwear. Someone else might wear it as a dress and be fabulous in it. 

Get acquainted with French or Italian-made tights. They tend to be better in quality and they’re more comfortable. I buy mine at TJ Maxx and other discount stores. I’ll wear purple tights and shoes with a simple grey dress or accent a black dress with tights trimmed in a satin bow.

Don’t choose something lovely; choose something that’s lovely on you. The older I get, the better I am at leaving a good deal on the rack if it really doesn’t flatter me. That’s a good place to be.

Check the shoulders on vintage garments. They are clues for condition. If they aren’t stretched or faded that’s a draw for me. Quality of fabric is also a draw.

Buy with the intention of keeping. I don’t buy vintage just to buy. I generally pass over the 70s and 80s because I lived through that and I don’t need to see it again, especially if it’s not particularly well made. I look for things that are forever pieces. It can’t just be a vintage day dress. It should be something really interesting that I’ll wear again and again and feel like a million bucks when I do. I once bought a Pauline Trigère swing coat at an antique mart. It’s very simple–collarless with slim sleeves. I don’t have to wonder whether I look good in it. I get compliments every time I wear it.

Try things on. It’s the only way to know if something is worth adding to your wardrobe. I’m pretty realistic. Shows like What Not to Wear have made me think about what I buy that’s not very flattering.

Don’t hide in your clothes. When I was younger, there were things I wanted to hide, so I got into a terrible habit of wearing tunics with leggings. That ended when someone commented on my “uniform.” I had gained some weight and it was making me feel awful about myself. Find something you can feel good about and dress to accentuate that.

P.S. Maureen’s heart must have been pounding when she discovered that Pauline Trigère swing coat tucked into a rack of no-nothing clothes. Trigère is a Parisian-born American designer known for chic elegance and tailoring techniques with no obvious seams. She died in 2002 at the age of 93 and her birthday was November 4, the day after my own.

Wouldn’t it be fun to learn more about Trigère? What’s the best vintage or thrift find you’ve ever discovered?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.