How One Vintage Store Transformed My Relationship With Clothes

As a tween growing up in New Brunswick, Canada, my impression of a “New York woman” was shaped by Carrie Bradshaw teetering down city blocks in Manolos and lounging alone in her apartment in lace nightgowns and a string of pearls. Illuminated by the screen of my iPod Touch and armed with the story Sex and the City told me about growing up, I assumed my future as a fabulous 20-something in New York City was contingent on my ability to accept discomfort as the norm.

When I finally moved to New York last January and started working three simultaneous jobs, I made it my prerogative to do them all while braving the salted sidewalks in heeled boots and dresses that left temporary marks on my toes and waist. When I got back to my apartment each night, deep grooves snaking their way across my body, I would slip on my only pair of sweatpants the second I was alone, as if my longing for comfort was a guilty secret. As I navigated a hectic schedule in a hectic city, I held firm to my belief that my maturity rested on embracing impracticality.

Then, a few months ago, while meandering through my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I happened upon a little store called Horizons Vintage on Metropolitan Avenue. I was lured into the brick-and-mortar alcove by the peachy candlelight and the 1920s music drifting out of the open door. Before I finished browsing the first rack, I had already fallen into a deep pit of matrimonial-level love. Each rack contained a curated selection of warm delicate items that balanced vintage charm with genuine comfort. The collection was like an invitation to cocoon every inch of myself in coziness, and to introduce an element of pragmatism to my adult wardrobe.

While perusing through the tags during what has become my routine visit to the Horizons fitting room, I have discovered that the majority of the garments are either 100% cotton, silk or cashmere. In an era of fast fashion, when most affordable clothes are being made of polyester and other unsustainable fabrics like nylon and viscose, the fabrics in Horizons feel like a gentle, refreshing reprieve.

I’m still a sucker for extravagance — there is a tote bag containing a beaded floor-length 1950s gown next to me as I write this — but this city is full of world-renowned vintage collectors selling tulle frocks and bedazzled platform shoes. Horizons, meanwhile, fills an untapped market: secondhand items that are soft, practical and special in equal measure.

This discovery has inspired something of a renaissance when it comes to my personal style, giving both my vintage nightgowns and sweatpants a well-deserved vacation and making way for outfits that settle into a middle ground: refined enough to make me feel like the grownup version of myself, and comfy enough that I keep them on after I get home from work. Now I can settle into my living room couch after a long day without changing, knowing that I can run down to a bodega for an emergency pint of Häagen-Dazs mint ice cream should I need to.

Finding a version of my style that acknowledges multiple facets of my life and my corporal comfort has felt like a sort of graduation. In case you’re also in the throes of this journey, check out the slideshow for four outfits I wore last weekend that celebrate this new approach, each containing at least two items I purchased from my new favorite store.

What are you styling tricks for bridging the gap between the couch and the outside world?

Photos by Henry Quinson

Starling Irving

Starling Irving is a New York-based writer and photographer with an affinity for vintage suitcases, toile de jouy, and anything with a mint leaf garnish.

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