There’s a way that we in the vintage-community refer to The Dress That Got Away. Either we saw it for sale but were a second too slow, or we found it in a size that would fit only one leg, or we spied it from afar on someone else, only to forever be burned in our brain. We refer to these elusive creatures as our Unicorn – whether it actually exists in nature in our size, to cross our path at the right time, we may never know. But that doesn’t mean we ever give up the hunt.
We gals are so tuned into our Unicorns that we can spot them a mile away. In a seller’s teaser post showing a pile of vintage to come, with nothing more but the whisp of a hemline or the peak of a print. We’re constantly sniffing the air like an anxious deer, waiting for even a faint whiff of that glorious rainbow hair. Most gals have some way they keep track of their Unicorns. A Pinterest board here, a bookmarked folder there. I have a folder on my Desktop labeled ‘W.’ For WANT.
For many years, one of my vintage Unicorns has been a Marjorie Montgomery dress – yellow with felt flowers and leaves, hand painted stems and prong-set rhinestones. The stuff vintage dreams are made of. And I’ve missed out on her twice now. Twice (read: torture). So, I’ve done as we all do: I’ve alerted my fellow vintage huntresses, put calls out on the message boards, and constantly searched my tried and true vintage retailers in vain.
A short while back, I received a message on IG from one of my favorite gals to follow, Kristina. The post literally read: “THIS IS NOT A DRILL” with a link to this baby pink beauty in Glenna’s Vintage Shop. Now, my heart nearly stopped because, other than being pink instead of yellow, she seemed so similar to the dress that has evaded me for years, though the label was listed as “Bullocks Los Angeles.” But, I still immediately scooped her up (when you see a potential Unicorn you click first, ask questions later).
While I was waiting for her arrival, I couldn’t help but examine the photos more closely cause it plagued me. Going through the photos from the listing, she looked exactly like my Unicorn. From the 3D flowers, to the waist sash, to the silhouette. Even the longer spray of flowers on the front, followed by the shorter one curving slightly to the side.
Upon doing a bit of research (it’s what I’m good at after all), I came to learn that Bullock’s was not a designer, but a very famous Department store that opened in the early 1900’s and expanded hugely for the next 70+ years (apparently, many of them later were purchased by Macy’s). From my reading on the Vintage Fashion Guild, every store was pretty much autonomous, and I can only assume that Bullock’s Los Angeles chose stock from local designers. As I happen to know Marjorie Montgomery was a designer in Southern California, the plot only thickened….
With the fastest shipping time I think I have ever encountered (literally 4 days from purchase to my doorstep), I had this beauty in my hot little hands. And she was even more stunning in person. A weighty pink cotton with a contrasting lining. Perfect 3D flower appliqué and bright green rhinestones dotting the hand-painted branches. And when I slipped her on and zipped her up, it felt as if she had been made for me. But sure enough, there was the “Bullock’s Los Angeles” label on the yoke, clear as day.
It was so strange, to find a dress that seemed so much like my Unicorn but was somehow not. Close but still far away. And just as I was going to give up the hunt for what was certainly the beautiful dress in my arms, I lifted her over my head. There, tucked into a side seam, was the iconic Marjorie Montgomery label, perfect and pristine and winking at me. As if to say, “I can’t believe you doubted me. I’ve been right here waiting for you all this time.”
More often than not, we don’t get our hands on our vintage Unicorns. They can be too far and too few in between, and the right combination of circumstances don’t always happen to bring you together. But, it doesn’t stop the thrill of the hunt (at least not for me). The belief that she just might be out there. In the next store, in the next estate sale. And should you two happen to cross paths, it means you were truly meant to be. And if all else fails, it helps to have an amazing friend like Kristina, who knew how badly I was searching and sent this mythical creature right into my vintage-loving reality.
So, you could say I believe in magic today….
Dress: Glenna’s Vintage Shop (similar modern or vintage here, here, here, & here)
Necklace: Modcloth (similar)
Hairpin: Forever New (similar)
Handbag: Gift (similar)
Shoes: Miss L Fire (similar here or add these to these!)
Lip Color: Dior Addict Ultra Gloss