Ask an Expert: Abigail Rutherford on Integrating Vintage

June 17, 2007 • Magazine

Ask an Expert: Abigail Rutherford on Integrating Vintage

Ask an Expert: Abigail Rutherford on Integrating Vintage

Sun, 2007-06-17 04:00

Julie Ghatan

As collectors, we all find ourselves accumulating items we don’t use: the shabby-chic tissue box cover, vintage hatboxes, oversized rhinestone ear clips… sound familiar? Though these items were crafted with functions in mind, we still can’t seem to find productive ways to incorporate them into our lives (I don’t buy tissues/don’t transport hats/ouch — those ear clips pinch!). Fear not, my clutter-phobic friends. I’ll help you indulge in your obsession with amassment unapologetically, unabashedly and — most importantly — completely stylishly.

With the help of Abigail Rutherford, Director of Vintage Couture and Accessories at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, we’ll supply you with innovative ways to enjoy your treasures and troubleshoot those pesky purpose problems:

Problem 1: You adore it, but it’s too small.

Corsets enabled women to faithfully fashion their figures in hourglass form but since we modern women are far less committed (or is it that we’re less masochistic?) to cookie-cutter perfection, we may find it difficult to zip our favorite dresses without ripping the seams. No need to worry — there are other ways to show off your tiny garment. Why not hang it on the wall or display it on a body form? I know what you may be thinking: “I don’t want to look like I live in a boutique.” And you won’t, if you do it right. Don’t make the dress the centerpiece of the room; let it serve as an accent. Choose a dress that matches the color scheme and overall aesthetic of the room and you’ll be fielding compliments from guests before you’ve even set out the hors d’oeuvres.

Problem 2: It’s too big!

So it fits in the waist and the bust is too big? We can thank the bullet bra for this departure from reality. What to do? Alter it. Episode after episode of Antiques Roadshow may have ingrained in you the lesson that any modification results in a decrease in value. This may ring true for furniture but riddle me this: how valuable is an article of clothing you can’t wear? Take that dowdy dress with potential to the seamstress, raise the hem, take in the sides, and flaunt it already!

Problem 3: You’re afraid to wear it.

I have a clear Lucite box purse I used to wear only on special occasions. Well, one to be exact: my cousin’s wedding in Cannes. I was too afraid scratch it! When I finally mustered the courage to wear it out, I realized that it brought me far more joy in my hand than in my closet. This newfound confidence in my ability to not damage my precious goods had me scouring my closet for those “special occasion” items — intricately beaded cardigans, delicate satin clutches, white lace gloves – to integrate into my daily wardrobe, where they should have been all along. Abigail is quick to point out that vintage items have lasted someone else a lifetime; they will surely last through your evening.

Problem 4: It speaks to you. What is it saying?

That set of vintage luggage is beckoning your ownership, isn’t it? You need it. You must take it home. But then what? The suitcases are too heavy to use and they don’t have wheels. Remember? We’re smart, efficiency-driven modern women. We can’t lug these around for the sake of looking cute! Why not stack them to make an avant-garde coffee or side table? They can double as storage to hide magazines, blankets, and other living room goodies. Find innovative ways to display those less-than-practical treasures and show off your inner visionary.

Problem 5: Pulling it off.

Pulling it off is easy if you follow Abigail’s simple advice:
Modernize it. Don’t relive it. Tailor that dress to give it a contemporary fit. Pair a vintage tie-neck blouse with skinny jeans and flats. Wear a 50’s shirt dress with new patent leather pumps. Accent a new dress with vintage jewelry. Mix and match new and old to create a style all your own.

Problem 6: You used to love it.

So you’ve tailored it to fit you, you found the right accessories to match, and you wore it proudly. The Louis Vuitton trunk served you well as a coffee table but now a mid-century boomerang style table is looking rather enticing. The need for change is understandable. If you’ve tried to find these once-favored pieces a good home to no avail, don’t head to the Goodwill just yet. There are experts who can find new owners who will appreciate these items just as much as you once did. Visit your local consignment store, appraiser, or auction house to get an expert’s opinion before banishing your belongings and you may make a pretty profit in your pursuit of new property.

Pictured, top to bottom:
Abigail Rutherford
Vintage Dress Form,
Leslie Hindman Auction Items, 6-13-07

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