Playing dress-up


This dress, you guys… this dress. Let me tell you a story about it.

I was eight or so months pregnant and at Goodwill browsing the dresses for one or two more frocks to stretch over my then-42″ belly when my fingers brushed over a piece of fabric in the XL section. It felt vintage (if you’ve shopped and searched for vintage long enough, you get the feel  for it), and even though I don’t normally pick out black dresses (or wear black, for that matter), I pulled it out.

The first thing I saw was the back:


… the beautiful detailing of the pleats, the bow, the semi-ruching, the vee neckline. The beauty of this dress really is the back. And I fell in love. I had a problem, though. First of all, my rule while I was pregnant was “no purchasing any dress that does not fit you now.” Secondly, I don’t really wear black all that much. And thirdly… I’m not an XL.

But I knew that Goodwill has really horrible skills at sizing vintage garments due to having found several dresses in XL or L sections that are really a modern size 6 (my dress size). So I threw it in my cart anyway.

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I had a very slim hope that maybe it really was an XL and would fit me while pregnant.

It didn’t.

So there I sat in the Goodwill dressing room, gazing longingly at this gorgeous dress and fighting with my inner pregnant voice on whether or not I could allow myself to purchase this one dress that didn’t currently fit my body. I went back and forth on the whole thing, saying to myself “Well, if it doesn’t fit me post-pregnancy, I’ll sell it. No biggie, right? But I can’t fall in love with a piece just to be disappointed later, and it might be a waste of money.”

Some people don’t really understand the thing I have for vintage and didn’t get why I wanted it so much. (Not naming any names, but you know, it’s one of the males in my house…)


And then I looked at the price tag. And I realized something: it was tag day. Green tag day. This dress was green tagged. As such, it would cost me a whopping $1.29.

So obviously I bought it.


And then, being curious about just how vintage this might be, I went home and started to do some research. I first poked around sites explaining the differences in things like zippers and seams and fit according to which era the garment was from, and tentatively started to think this dress might be from the 1940’s. Then I looked up the tag, which simply says “Benham Original New York” and a plethora of dresses popped up.

All from between the 1930’s-1950’s. All priced above $130.

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So I’m not normally one to put too much thought into how much of a score I might have made at the thrift store, but… this dress? It’s probably the most impressive thrift store purchase I’ve ever made.

Now for me, knowing the age and value of a dress like this just makes me want to keep it even more. My husband, on hearing the success of my trip and the possible value of the dress, immediately said “sell it! Think of all the stuff you could get!”


Everything… thrifted or gifted.

But no. One does not give up a perfectly fitted 1940’s little black dress like this very easily when one has been obsessed with vintage for so long. Haha!

Anyway. Today I just had to play dress-up because the weather is beautiful and I was trying to decide whether I wanted to wear this to a wedding this weekend or not. But wearing black to a spring wedding feels very weird to me, so most likely I’ll go with something more… spring-colored.

I’ll keep this for a fall or winter wedding, or some other black-tie event (because I go to a lot of those… ha! Not.)

Happy Thursday!

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  • Desarae

    Oh my goodness!! This dress is just luscious! What a great find! I actually really like black, it has a very elegant feel, not to mention a slimming effect, which makes me love this dress even more! And you do indeed look so very elegant in it- I LOVE the little flounce in the back hem of the dress! Congratulations on a great purchase, and for not talking yourself out of it. 🙂

  • Rachelle

    You seriously have a talent for adapting your look to match a garment, and vice versa, adapting a garment to match your look! So beautiful, and such a great find (for such a great price!). This dress is almost a business in the front, party in the back deal. Love the bow.

  • Salazar

    Va-va-voom! I could totally see you wearing this on a fancy night out with Mr. Owl (if you guys have fancy nights out :P) Do you have a fascinator? I seem to remember that you do. It’ll look great with this!

  • Jeanne

    I for one find this dress a little too austere (I think it’s the colour… I also don’t wear much black). However, once again you managed to get lovely pictures out of it (I especially love the close-up from behind one). And congratulations for the find! You definitely have a flair for vintage.

  • Rhia

    Oh my! That is fabulous dress! The cut and the details are truly something to hold on. You look stunning wearing it, so it was definitely worth getting. I always say that woman needs atleast one black dress, even if she doesn’t wear black otherwise. There will be events when black is the best choice, so why not have the best possible black dress you can.

    Based on the style and over all look, I’d say it’s 50’s. However, zip at the back usually hints that the dress is not that old. Usually in the 50’s and earlier zips were usually under arm. But adding all the details, sleeves are variation on kimono sleeve, bow at the neckline, bodice cut and pleats at the back are all pointing towards 50’s.

    • Eccentric Owl

      That was my thought initially about the zipper, but all of the other factors are pointing towards 40’s-50’s. 🙂 It’s a metal zipper which usually indicates an older garment, there are no care or fabric labels (which weren’t mandatory till the 60’s-70’s I believe), and the seaming and general way it’s sewn and all of the other style elements you mentioned definitely came together in evidence of its age. So it’s probably just one of the occasional back-zips you find in 50’s garments.

  • Amia

    I adore this dress, you look like a vintage vixen dear! The back of that dress is everything, but the front is beautiful as well! I’m not sure about black to a spring wedding, but you and Mr. Owl should definitely do a fancy date night out sometime 🙂