Some time ago, I came across a truly wonderful find at Paper Dress Vintage on Curtain Road in Shoreditch. A two-piece Mary Quant. Olive green dress and matching jacket, with a sweet blue and yellow floral pattern on the dress bodice and jacket lining and collar. The shade wasn't one I'd usually go for but the whole thing was just so fabulous that I had to try it on. The colour actually suited me quite well it turned out, the fabric was lovely and soft, the whole thing dead comfortable and the perfect length...
... but JUST too big! I was utterly devastated. I wanted it to fit, I willed it to fit, I squinted and pretended that it fitted. But sadly, it wasn't too be. The dress could have worked with some adjustment as it was a pretty simple shift. The jacket, on the other hand, would have required a fair bit of restructuring. The sales assistant, clearly seeing how heartbroken I was, informed me that they had a tailoring service, if I wanted to take advantage of that. I pondered very hard, more seriously than I have ever pondered alteration services but in the end, I walked away.
Although tailors can be amazing, there is something that just doesn't feel right to me about taking a vintage item that has survived intact down the ages, and then nipping and tucking to make it fit you. Especially when it's an iconic designer item, and so perfectly structured and made to begin with. It may sound a bit melodramatic but to me it seems like it wouldn't be a genuine item anymore. In this case, it wouldn't have been Mary Quant anymore, it wouldn't have been what she had designed, it would have been a new garment, even with the most skilled tailor.
So I maintained my philosophy of "if it doesn't fit, it wasn't meant for me and some other girl that comes after me will be the perfect new owner". It's actually one of the things I love about being an almost purely vintage/second-hand girl. Not only does it naturally keep your acquisition rate down, it makes it all the more special when you do find something that not only looks perfect on the rack but looks perfect on you too (such as this amazing find last year). For that reason, if it requires anything more than, say, a hem adjustment or a couple of simple darts (both reversible), I'll leave it behind.
What are your thoughts on modifying vintage items? Do you like your finds unadulterated or do you enjoy the challenge of making clothes work for you? Alternatively, do you use tailoring and altering services? Do you think I'm mad for my thinking that it wouldn't have been Mary Quant anymore if I'd modified the jacket? Do you feel like crying when you see, for example, a 1940s dress that was clearly originally knee-length, hacked off to be made into a mini (I once encountered a whole shop full of such abominations)? Or do you like personalizing and modernizing old items? I'd love to hear your comments.