Tag Archives: vintage

Holy Grails of Fashion: The Sweater Dress

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Do you have specific fashion covets?  And when I say specific, I mean you have a very clear vision of what this particular item looks like in terms of fabric, cut, colour, etc, in addition to how it looks on your body and how it makes you feel like the Queen of the world?  And trying to find this very specific sartorial piece in the real world is an ongoing mission of indefinite time, and you’re not going to quit until it materializes because you’re just obsessively determined like that? I call these the Holy Grails of Fashion.

One of my many Grails has been the Sweater Dress.  Conceptually to me, this item is the perfect solution to winter dressing; the fuzzy counterpart to the breezy summer dress.  It is easy to wear and immediately stylish – just throw it on over your head, add a touch of bling around the neck, pull on knee high boots, and you’re set.  They’re also incredibly comfortable, made of knit, jersey, or cotton with a touch of lycra, which move with you.  Now the tricky part and what has made it to Holy Grail status for me is the fit.  I have a naturally somewhat athletic figure, ie. not fashion model-boyish, which means the dress needs to cling to certain bits but not to others without adding too much overall bulk to the torso.  Ideally it should be body skimming and create an hourglass shape.  The neckline shouldn’t be too tight, but wider with a flattering shape to offset my wide face.

This specific dress has not been easy to find by any means.  Over many years, I’ve settled for various not-quite-it versions which didn’t elevate me to Queen status.  Instead, I would find myself a bit insecure and fidgety in them, constantly tugging here and there to try and re-direct the clingy areas.  But I’ve never given up and always beeline to them whenever I make my shopping rounds.

Aurora sweater dress-2

Photo by Lance Holroyd

On one of these rounds in early fall I was perusing Front & Co. on Main Street, my go to destination for retail therapy, when I came upon this charcoal grey Rachel Roy bias cut cotton/viscose blend dress.  I tried it on and voila, had the Holy Grail of Sweater Dresses finally been found?  Flattering wide neckline, check.  Body skimming without too much bulk, check.  Current and slightly edgy with an uneven hem, but basically timeless in style and colour, check.  Sexy and yet still appropriate for the office, yes.  And finally, at the $35 consignment price, it was a closer.  Praise be to the Fashion Gods!

I have worn this dress several times to work and felt like the Queen of the office…except for the fact that after a few 8-hour days of wear, the knit started to loosen up and not spring back to its original shape, causing it to look increasingly baggy.  I’m hoping that drycleaning will do the trick to bring back the shape; otherwise, there’s always a return to the quest for the Holy Grail…

Words by Aurora Chan

Photo by Lance Holroyd

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Sale Review: Frugal Fashionista Lux Redux Sale

Kitsilano Kitty's Closet Sale-1

The online store Kitsilano Kitty’s Closet held its first Frugal Fashionista Lux Redux Sale in the form of a one-day pop-up shop in the gorgeous Waterfall Building on Sat August 24.  The big open space flooded with natural light provided the perfect backdrop for the gently worn high end designer clothes, shoes and handbags.  The owners of KKC, Helen Siwak and her husband, scour thrift shops, craigslist, and local retailers for gems and then re-sell them on both Etsy and their own website.  They are selective with their finds, only choosing barely worn items bearing big name labels, ranging from Prada to Dolce & Gabbana.  The prices ranged anywhere from $30 to $300.

In addition to their own stock, KKC also invited other businesses to join the space, including Seductive Perils by Maggie Pie, Mystic Masala Aromatherapy, Indian Brow & Henna Boutique, as well as culinary treats by Arielle’s Sweet Tooth.  I tried one of the gluten-free mini pumpkin spice cupcakes and it was perfection.

The premise behind KKC is both smart and eco-friendly – providing fashionistas with a carefully curated selection of high end pieces at a fraction of the retail cost while also practicing the three R’s of sustainability, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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EP!C 2013: A Look at Sustainable Fashion

Tees & Sunnies

Two Birds Eco-Luxury Apparel

Daniel and Tiffany of Two Birds know a thing or two about casual luxury. Their eco-friendly line of organic cotton and bamboo t-shirts are silky soft to the touch and make their customers feel indulgent without looking it. They also carry a line of eco eyewear called Sire’s Crown. According to their website, each pair is “handcrafted in LA using sustainably forested and reclaimed woods.” In addition to the stylish Wayfarer-esque look, the glasses also come in an equally sleek case too.


Frocks & Gowns


Designer Leanne McElroy was at a sustainable employment sewing cooperative in Indonesia at the time I had wanted to interview her. Not only does she help develop communities through the co-op, she also uses organic, sustainable or upcycled fabrics, sourced from the Indonesian communities. But this established Vancouver designer needs no introduction; the clothes speak for themselves. Her contemporary West Coast stylings are well suited for an evening out or for professional day-to-day wear. Elroy definitely had one of the busiest booths at EP!C.

Pure Magnolia

Pure Magnolia is a dream come true for brides who opt for eco-weddings to suit their eco-lifestyles. Designer Patty Nayel sources fabrics such as organic cotton sateen, hemp silk satin, and modal knits. The team collects and refashions vintage wedding dresses,  as well as create new styles; one of my favourites being the diamond back styles. The designs even inspired a 3 year old boy, who pointed to the tulle wedding dress on a mannequin and said, “When I get married, my bride’s going to wear this dress.”


Purses & Handbags

Love Me 2 Times

Featured in the EP!C preview, Love Me 2 Times is the brainchild of handbag designer, Amelia Shaughnessy. Her bags, clutches, make-up bags, and coin purses are all made from recycled leathers sourced from local vintage shops. Her latest collection of fringe purses are are flirty and fun; simply perfect for summer.

Cork by Design

The Portuguese designed and crafted cork handbags by Cork by Design could easily pass for leather. Instead, the husband and wife team, Martha and Jack Vainer, have used cork, sourced from the cork forests in Portugal. Bark is stripped from the cork trees, and the renewable resources “regenerates itself after each extraction.” The Style by Fire team’s favourite eco-design of EP!C is definitely the Cork by Design iPad shoulder bag: how modern and sustainable!

Coming up next… A Look at EP!C from a sustainable living point of view

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Filed under Designers, Events, STYLE SEEN, Sustainable Style

EP!C Preview: Amelia Shaughnessey Loves Leather 2x


Amelia Shaughnessy started making bags from reclaimed leather 3 years ago while working full-time. But at her day job, she says, “All I was thinking about was making bags!” So in January of this year, she opted to make Love Me 2 Times  her full-time work. Although every new business can be a struggle to get off the ground, Amelia confidently says, “It’s worth it to do what you love.”

Her bags are all made from vintage leather jackets… and pants! Apparently there’s quite a high supply of leather pants in the thrifting markets. Pants also offer a much wider range of colour choices for the designer, as most leather jackets she finds are brown or black. What is now a teal handbag was once a pair of pants, and a current blue purse was a former leather skirt. Amelia never knows what to expect when hunting for new materials;  it’s certainly always a surprise.

Because of the panels on these garments, she often takes what may seem like an awkward piece and turns it into a focal point in her designs. Oftentimes, jacket pockets are repurposed as a bag’s external pockets. Perhaps it would act as an easy go-to area for lipstick? Love is literally infused on Love Me 2 Times bags: a little stitched heart makes an appearance on the products.

Look inside the recycled leather bags, the brightly patterend lining you see was made from a vintage dress. In addition to speaking to the environmental awareness she creates, Amelia says she “really wanted to something so each one is unique so that people felt it was something really special.” The uniqueness factor is something that runs throughout her business and personal style. When asked which fashion icon she admires, she doesn’t take a moment to hesitate, and mentions Emilio Pucci. “My entire wardrobe is vintage dresses,” she laughs.

Amelia Shaughnessey

Amelia will be at the EP!C Sustainable Living Festival this July 6 – 7th at the Sustainable Living Marketplace. Check out Love Me 2 Times along with Elroy, Dahlia Drive, and other eco-fashion designers.

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Filed under BE SCENE, Designers, Events, Interviews, Sustainable Style