Rose Marie Prince loves antiques of all kinds, but there's a special place in her heart for vintage clothing — perhaps because of two very special dresses, her grandmother's wedding gown and the beaded dress in which her mother was married.
While those two gowns are the genesis of Rose Marie's vintage clothing collection, she has other authentic garments from days gone by as well as some reproductions.
Hats, shoes, purses, lingerie and other accessories round out Rose Marie's fashionable collection.
Her grandmother's wedding dress is cut from black brocade and features a bodice and turned back cuffs made of silver satin overlaid with black lace. Although most of today's brides prefer white or off-white, Rose Marie says when her grandmother was married in 1895, women didn't have the money to splurge on a dress they'd wear just a few hours, then hang in the closet. Instead, they chose something that would be appropriate for other special occasions. The dress is actually two pieces, so Rose Marie's grandmother likely paired a variety of tops with the heavy floor-length skirt.
Her mother's wedding dress is a soft green color with intricate beading. Rose Marie also has the matching green hat; in wedding photos, two scarves attached to either side of the hat are draped becomingly around the bride's face. Pastels were the rage when Rose Marie's mother was married in 1928 — her three friends chose purple, orange and pink for their wedding dresses.
Because the beading is so heavy, Rose Marie is careful to keep the dress in mint condition by storing it flat in a box. "Anything like this you should never hang, because after a while the weight of the beads will pull on the fabric," she said.
Other pieces in her collection date from the many years she and her husband Chuck lived in Leadville. The folks of Leadville embrace the community's colorful mining history by hosting balls and other "dress-up" occasions which gave Rose Marie a good reason to expand her Victorian wardrobe. A third generation resident of Leadville, Rose Marie was also a dedicated volunteer at the Horace Tabor Opera House.
After a 33-year career with Climax Molybdenum, Chuck retired and they moved "south" to the warmer climate of Delta. They brought with them all their antiques, including Rose Marie's growing collection of clothing.
"I've always had some things, then people have given me stuff, and I've bought things at garage sales, estate sales and auctions," Rose Marie says. "The last thing I bought cost 25¢. I always say this is a collection on a budget. You can go on eBay and find hats that start at $25 and go into the hundreds, but I have a limit — although every once in a while I have to break the bank," she confessed.
For avid collectors, the hunt is all part of the fun. Rose Marie recalls one auction where she bid on a box full of shoes just to get a pair of low-heeled black shoes with ankle straps and silver buckles. They looked as though they dated from the 1920s, but were tossed into a large box with several pairs of more modern footwear.
"I knew right away they were a treasure," Rose Marie says, "but I was the only person interested in the shoes so I got the whole box for six bucks."
At an estate sale for Esther Stephens, a Delta historian, she purchased several "exquisite" hats to add to a collection which numbers nearly 200. A post-Civil War bonnet was a gift from a friend in Iowa who discovered the hat in a trunk in her barn. Another hat was discovered in her aunt's dresser, after her aunt's death. "That hat must have meant something to her," Rose Marie says. "I just wish I knew the story behind it.
"A lady always saves clothes that mean something to her," she said. "That's why I hate to see them discarded; I believe they're special enough to save. I feel bad when I see wedding dresses in Goodwill stores — to me they speak of a failed relationship."
Rose Marie also browses eBay occasionally. She once bought a box with a couple of hats, some gloves, handkerchiefs and other items that she got "really cheap." The trouble with eBay, she says, is that sellers don't always accurately portray the condition of used merchandise.
These days, there's a lot more interest in vintage clothing so the selection is not asvaried as it once was, and prices have risen accordingly. To collectors like Rose Marie, each piece of clothing speaks volumes about the economic times, emerging technology, global influences and the changing role of women through the 1900s.
Each piece of clothing is also a "friend." When asked to provide some outfits for Altrusa's Sugar Plum Festival fashion show in November, Rose Marie took great pleasure in going through her collection to put together dresses, petticoats, hats, gloves and shoes for the models. The greatest challenge was finding models with the narrow waists of our forebearers. Some dresses from the early 1900s are cut so small through the waist that they can only be worn by teen girls.
"Someone told me once that coming to my house was like going to a museum," she says. From her collection of old-fashioned lingerie to the assortment of ceramic dogs displayed on the wall, Rose Marie says she's greatly enjoyed adding to her many collections. She just wishes she had enough closet space for her own clothes!blog comments powered by Disqus