In the third part of our Encore summer style series, we meet up with Meg van Huygen, one of Nordstrom’s own marketing copyeditors, who describes how she makes vintage pieces part of her work-to-weekend wardrobe—and, by doing so, creates a uniquely modern statement.
I’ve been passionate about thrifting since high school—right around the time the grunge era hit here in Seattle. It was a unique time and place to be a teenage girl and learn about one’s fashion tastes because pretty much anything was game. I remember my mom being, ahem, put off when I asked her to take me school-shopping at the Federal Army & Navy Surplus in my sophomore year (where I picked up a sweet Russian military belt that I still wear today).
Work-Ready: Calvin Klein Fit & Flare Dress, Lois Hill Small Cutout Stud Earrings and vintage pumps
It was after college, though, when I started delving beyond the army-boots-and-skater-dress alterna-standard and really got into vintage. In my late 20s, I became a lot bolder and started experimenting, comprising old and new pieces, seeing what worked and what didn’t. It’s definitely an art form—when I get dressed in the morning, I think of it as compiling a collage to reflect how I’m feeling that day.
As I’ve reached my 30s, I’ve started focusing more on mid-century vintage, with a special interest in cocktail dresses and Western accessories. My dress collection is somewhere around 150. I’m tall, so I’ve always worn a lot of dresses and skirts anyway—rather than mess around with pants, trying to find the right inseam. I’m really stoked to see the fit-and-flare silhouette make a comeback in the fashion world these days, as it really flatters my pear shape—I have at least a dozen Eliza J and Taylor fit-and-flare dresses from the Encore department at Nordstrom! These A-line silhouettes really evoke the ’50s and ’60s for me, so I’ll often add accessories from that era, for a luxe, polished look. E.g., I can never resist adding a vintage belt to a fit-and-flare dress, just to sort of gild the lily.
Coffee Break Chic: Calvin Klein Sleeveless Fit & Flare Dress, Lois Hill Granulated Drop Earrings and a vintage scarf with a mallard print
I play the piano and accordion in cabarets around Seattle, and that’s what I save my most fantastic old cocktail dresses for: the stage. When I’m at work, though, rather than going full vintage, I like to pair subtle antique accessories with a modern dress or top. Lately, my thing has been to aim for as sharp of a contrast as possible, like putting an embroidered bolero matador’s jacket from the ’40s over a designer LBD, or adding a novelty scarf to a Calvin Klein dress. Sort of like a mixtape of vintage and couture.
Because I’m 5’11”, I’ve worn flats almost exclusively for most of my life and have been shy about heels, afraid that people would stare at me if I walked around at 6’3″, but I’ve been doing it anyway lately and just trying to rock it. It’s kind of empowering! I’m finding that stiletto pumps are especially fun with tea-length dresses, which can make a lady’s calves look short otherwise.
A Few of My Favorite Things: Here are a few highlights from my vintage collection!
I have a more-or-less comprehensive knowledge of where almost every single vintage piece I own came from! What can I say; it’s a gift. The Turkish evil eye bracelet came from a gigantic flea market in San Antonio. The string of glass beads belonged to an old boyfriend’s mom. The cat earrings are from my childhood, actually, when I was a miniature crazy cat lady. I found the black ’80s necklace at Archie McPhee, of all places. The pearls are Japanese circled pearls, repurposed from a broken necklace of a friend’s grandmother’s. I adore that pretty little purse mirror; I’m not sure which decade it’s from, but I got it at a plus-size clothing swap a few years ago. The Western belt that ALMOST has my name on it (!) came from the reigning queen of all Seattle thrift stores, Lucky, in the University District. And there’s my old Russian military belt buckle from the army/navy surplus store, way back when.
I also like to fashion my own accessories; the cable car pendant is just a sterling Christmas ornament that I found (along with the sunnies) at Buster Drake, a great little antique shop near Pike Place Market, last weekend and slapped onto a silver chain that I got in Mexico City. My new favorite piece! It’s a similar story with the cloisonné fish; it was originally a keychain that I found at a street stall in New York’s Chinatown.
Mix Master: Alexis Bittar ‘Lucite®’ Skinny Tapered Bangle (Nordstrom Exclusive) and FELICITY & COCO Stripe Jersey Maxi Dress; paired with a Chinese fish necklace and sunglasses from the ’80s
I have a big personality and I love bright colors that pop. I’ve got a weakness for geometric prints right now, particularly chevron patterns that accentuate my waist. As well, I love what I’ve been calling the “dazzle camouflage” trend that’s so popular lately. I’m also a total mark for prints that are objects—I have an Eliza J dress with origami birds all over it, a ’60s sweater with helicopters on it, a polyester blouse from the ’70s with a deer pattern, etc.
Seattle’s not exactly known for its balmy weather, and so for most of the year, I’ll dress up my long legs with colorful tights. Because I work for Nordstrom, I always go straight to Encore for hosiery that comes in plus AND tall sizes—Donna Karan is my favorite brand for cute, trendy, durable tights in my size. In the summertime, I find that SPANX are a godsend for plus ladies who like to wear skirts and dresses—if not for shaping reasons than only to combat the nefarious thigh rub that can happen when tights aren’t an option. (They’re also nice to have when you’re too tall for your vintage skirt from another, when-women-were-shorter time, and you need a little extra coverage!)
Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of The Curvy Girl’s Summer Guide to Style featuring Marie Denee, the creative force behind The Curvy Fashionista blog.
−Photos by Jeff Powell