Someone asked me why I love vintage Gunne Sax dresses.
The answer is simple.
They remind me of my mom.
Gunne Sax…Calico…Sheer Love
Calico, to me, is synonymous with comfort and love. The instant I run my hands over a vintage Gunne Sax dress or feast my eyes on one, I’m instantly taken back. Way back.
It’s not 2020 anymore. The complexity of life as we’ve come to know it is gone. I am free now. My head is on her shoulder as she carries me around barefoot, tranquil, wandering through Hippie Haven aka Haight Ashbury circa the 1970s.
I see the intricate dainty calico flower print on one of her many prairie dresses. Feel her flowing long blond hair against my skin. Smell her scent, always patchouli. And sweet orange. Often some mixed florals too. Sometimes rose. Sometimes jasmine. Eternally beautiful.
Times were different then. Probably every generation says that.
Mom was a textbook “Make Love, Not War” flower child. She was young, yes, when she had me. And unlike today where so much is carefully planned from the pregnancy to birth to mommy ‘n me classes…I wasn’t. Who among us “children of flower children” were “planned”?
But it didn’t matter. Because I felt her love. If it sounds idyllic or overly simple, maybe it is. But beyond that bond – beyond love – what else is there, what do we have?
There were no staged Instagram stories or photoshopped Facebook posts or politically correct tweets in those days. Life was real. Unfiltered. Gritty. Authentic. Raw.
The Road Less Travelled Is Our Destination
Mom never went to college or earned a fancy degree. And she certainly didn’t marry some dashing gentleman. She never had an “official” job title and 500 connections on LinkedIn. It wasn’t her path. She is eternally boundless, divinely feminine, a Free Soul.
Her mantra was always “Whatever you do is alright, as long as you’re not harming yourself or anyone else.” For a kid, those words were golden. I was raised without judgment, able to blossom into my own Free Soul.
I didn’t grow up with what I came to perceive as the rigid constraints so many other kids faced. Later on, I attended school in an affluent area where it seemed like everyone was, well…just like everyone else – ordinary, boring, searching for something but never finding…
About All Those Vintage Gunne Sax Dresses…
By now, I bet you’re thinking that the #1 favorite dress in my closet must be a vintage Gunne Sax.
My most cherished dress isn’t doesn’t bear the coveted Gunne Sax label. Nor is it a Laura Ashley Wales frock. Nor one of the many early Ralph Lauren prairie dresses mom acquired later on when Clotilde was stunning in the fashion spreads of the era.
This dress doesn’t have a label – or rather, if it did, it’s long gone. But it was her favorite too, and the one I remember her wearing the most in those days so many decades ago.
Truth be told, it’s seen its better day. The fabric is faded now. Some little holes. A larger repair at the shoulder that should be re-done. And wear to the hem, given that it’s many inches too long on my 5’ petite frame.
But it’s all those wonderful characteristics that make it ever the more special to me. It was hers. And now, mine. The “imperfection” of the dress itself speaks to authenticity: hers, mine, ours. Life.
What if we all lived life unfiltered?
Unsurprisingly, my late grandma was a hippie before the term even became a household word. She too, encouraged me to follow my calling – whatever it was. And so I did, dressing in full Victorian costume complete with her old lace up boots just for outings to the local mall, amongst other things that always got “the look” from other more “respectable” members of society.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like if we could all live like that more often – not just as kids playing dress-up or having fun – but as a way of life where we embrace each other’s uniqueness and see life as the rich tapestry of experience that it really is…
Some might smirk and call me a dreamer…a hippie. If that’s the only title I ever have in this thing called life, I’ll proudly wear it.
A final word about those beloved Gunne Sax dresses that are overflowing from my packed closets. For my mom – and for me too – life isn’t about labels. It’s about love.
“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”
— Vincent Van Gogh