I made a special trip home for my small prairie town’s Blast from the Past Fashion Show. The event was put on by our local performing arts council, as a fundraiser for a festival they host every spring. When they sent out a call for both clothing and models, I was at once surprised and thrilled – the request was not only for clothing, but for the stories behind the clothing, too. They did not just want models, but models with some sort of connection to the clothes they would be wearing. The idea was that a granddaughter would walk down the runway in a blouse her great-grandmother made, or a niece would wear a dress from her aunt’s wedding in the seventies. The clothing was important, but equally important were the lives the clothes had led.
The weekend before the show, I had come from university to my tiny prairie hometown for a visit. That Sunday afternoon, my delightful seventy-something-year-old neighbour came over to deliver some food (as per always) and discuss the development of the show. She had donated some clothing and was excited about the prospect of it being worn again, so many years later.
“We’re supposed to wear hats,” she reported, “Come over next weekend and I’ll let you wear one of mine.” I may have let out a little squeal of excitement, and the prospect of vintage fashion in tiny St. Michael made my neighbour just as happy. As she left, after an hour of talking about pillbox hats and wedding shoes, she called from the doorway, “It’ll be more fun than a picnic!” I haven’t been to many picnics in my life, but now that the show is over I can tell you she was absolutely right.
When I arrived at the show on Sunday afternoon, hat firmly on my head, the place was abuzz with ladies and tea. Everyone was chatting or marveling over the displays of clothing, shoes and accessories that didn’t make it onto the runway.