I often poke around at my local Goodwill. Last week I wandered on over when I vacated my house for a showing. In the dress section, I came across this dress. I got kind of excited about it. At first glance, the orange and brown pattern jumped out as 60's or 70's and oh so groovy. When I took the hanger off of the rack for a closer inspection, I saw that on many levels it was not "regular groovy" on many.
First, was the fabric. It's a sheer organza with that bit of sparkle. Could it be silk organza? Second, is the design. It has an oriental styling with it's Mandarin top and collar. The waist is nipped and the full length skirt flares with two tall slits a the sides. It looks designed to be worn over something else.
Most intriguing of all, however, are the label, the size and the workmanship. The garment looks handmade. It's actually quite simply made. The front is all one piece, as is the back. The sleeves are cut in, with a longer, lower sleeve sewn in at the biceps. There are vertical waist darts at the front and back and then horizontal bust darts at the front. You can see pen markings on the inside at the darts (it's transparent after all). The stitching is uneven and wonky all over.
The label says (and I can't recreate some of the letters/punctuation) "NHA MAY - Van Cri - 98 TO H THANH SAIGON". Saigon? My brain raced when I read it. Didn't Saigon stop being called Saigon in 1975 when it became Ho Chi Minh City after the fall to the North Vietnamese? What was this dress?
I held it and pondered. The organza felt like it could be silk. Or was I imagining that now because of the label? The price tag was $4.99, so I had to try it on.
To my disappointment, it was small. I'm not talking a-little-bit-snug small. I mean so incredibly small the arm of the dress didn't get past the bicep on my arm. I know I'm not supermodel thin (who is, besides supermodels?). But this was nano small.
Even so, I couldn't walk away from it. By now, I was so intrigued by this dress I had to have it. Did this dress really come from Saigon pre-1975? It would explain the groovy orange and brown colors. Who made it? Is the label's NHA MAY a Vietnamese seamstress or a company? How were clothes manufactured in Vietnam back then? Would it explain the basic construction? Were clothes like this manufactured as a response to military troops to purchase as gifts for loved ones back home? Did a soldier buy it for a loved one back home or perhaps, did a soldier come back with a wife? A soldier might not know about size, hence explaining why it's so small. It might also explain why it has virtually no wear and tear (...it was too small for dear Betty). On a completely different spin, could some girl have made it in home ec back in the 70's, and stuck a label on, stolen from some unused garment knocking around the house? The truth is, I simply don't know.
The dress opened so many exciting questions that I HAD to have it. My father was a Vietnam Veteran and I wish I could show it to him somehow to see what he thought.
But since that's not possible, I post the dress here for all of you to see. It's so small, it doesn't fit Doris so I had to take pictures of it on a hanger (I measured the dress' waist - it's 24"!) I hope it's as interesting and exciting for you as it is for me. I also hope that we can all be Dress Detectives and maybe find some answers to this lovely, and most likely, vintage dress. What do you think?