Vanity Fair Letter to the Editor published November 2009.
The Art of Couture
AS AN ATTORNEY and writer who set aside her Columbia Law School education to dedicate the past five years of her life to being a purveyor of vintage clothes, I can attest to the everlasting allure of couture [“Toujours Couture,” by Amy Fine Collins, September]. I am an avid consumer of contemporary design—which owes nearly everything to vintage—but the pinnacle of my sartorial adventure came last January. Just before I dashed back into another frigid New England night after a house party, the host asked me what I do for a living. Upon hearing that I am a shopgirl, he descended to his basement and returned with a black garbage bag. From that rather unpromising blob of plastic emerged a cocoa-brown Christian Dior New Look ball gown from 1952. Christened “Esther” on her muslin tag and created for Mrs. John Wanamaker of Philadelphia, the masterpiece featured a finely boned corset, intricate beading, and a ballerina-inspired silhouette that must have been blessed by Monsieur Dior himself. It was the most beautiful dress I’d ever touched, I told its then owner, who offered it to me. Eventually, I sold Esther, my flower of all frocks. Today, she preens before me still, as my computer desktop image. —PETRIA MAY, Great Barrington, Massachusetts