The story isn’t over yet, though… Typically, acquiring a special occasion frock requires lining up accessories and maybe a schlep to the tailor, but if the evening wear is a generation old, there’s a third task the new owner wear must face as well: Getting out the vintage aroma.
And so it was with my glorious Oscar. It may have looked pristine, but it certainly didn’t smell that way. Delightfully free of the brown splotches and shmutz euphemistically referred to as “tea stains”, “age freckles”, and “storage dust” (though perhaps these “imperfections” were just really well camouflaged by the dark color and rococo print?), it nonetheless smelled as though the rich hippie who once called it hers had partied hard in it and then stuffed it in the back of her closet for the next three decades. (I’ll reserve the fascinating topic of how to tackle stains way beyond their statute of limitations for a future blog entry, and stick for now to that of the olfactory challenges posed by well-aged perspiration, perfume, smoke, mothballs, sometimes in combination…)
My first line of attack was my local dry cleaner, where I’ve had surprisingly good luck with everything from ornately beaded sweaters and silk wiggle dresses to vintage dyed leather jackets and swing coats with rhinestone buttons. Apart from rare episodes of color bleed or an occasional stain too stubborn to vanish completely, nearly all the down-at-heels duds I’ve brought there have found salvation. The verdict on my smelly Oscar, however, was disappointingly grim: “These flowers are gonna melt; no way I can clean this”.