As a young woman, I had always liked the idea of dressing in vintage clothing for a special occasion.

What looked like a vintage dress instead anticipated the loungewear trend by several decades. Photo courtesy of Vicki Sullivan

That occasion presented itself one day. A friend, a Bates graduate, was going to have a dinner party at her home in Lewiston. Among her guests were friends and professors from Bates, so I was expecting a sophisticated crowd and a sophisticated evening. I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Although I usually wore classic clothes, Orphan Annie’s had just opened in Auburn in 1977 and featured vintage clothing. So, on the day of the dinner party, I went shopping there.

Trying on different dresses, but with no one accompanying me to give me advice on fashion choices, I had to go by what I thought looked good and right for the occasion.

My selection was a knee-length, puffed-sleeve, gray wrap dress (or so I thought) with muted flowers and a tie belt. And when I got home, I paired it with canvas wedge sandals to add to the vintage look.

Somehow, though, I just had my doubts that this was the right look. And once I arrived at the dinner party, I knew it wasn’t. No one looked askance at me or laughed, but I just felt awkward. So awkward, in fact, that I thought of going back home and changing. But by now the dinner was well underway.


Feeling very self-conscious and hoping no one really cared about my outfit, I got through the evening and came home.

It was later that I discovered what I had thought was a vintage wrap dress was really a vintage housecoat. (For those of you too young to know, a housecoat was a sort of bathrobe that you could wear around the house.) How humiliated I felt!

But eventually I put the garment to its rightful use.

Forty-four years later, and I’m still haunted by that fashion faux pas. So needless to say, I have never tried wearing vintage since.

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