VINTAGE INSPIRATIONS BY THE LOVELY MARY SPEARS FROM @MILLAYVINTAGE
We are absolutely delighted to introduce Mary Spears, founder of "Millay Vintage”an online vintage shop focusing on women's clothing and home goods and the writer of the accompanying blog All Things Lovely. Mary is a uniquely talented entrepreneur, expert in vintage fashion, a stylist and interior designer, and shopkeeper. Driven by a sense of romance and adventure, she was initially drawn to fashion while stumbling across intersections between her two passions women's rights and women's fashion through past decades. Combining her interest for fashion, home styling, and women's rights, her vision is to empower women through style by enabling a sense of confidence and individuality both in their wardrobe and in their home. From Atlanta, Georgia, she now lives in a beautiful apartment in Philadelphia with her husband and her dog General Gazpacho.
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink And rise and sink and rise and sink again; Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; "Yet many a man is making friends with death" Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. It well may be that in a difficult hour, Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, Or nagged by want past resolution's power, I might be driven to sell your love for peace, Or trade the memory of this night for food. It well may be. I do not think I would.
When you first enter Millay Vintage about page, this wonderful poem is what welcomes you into that space. They are the inspiring words by Pulitzer prize-winning writer Edna St. Vincent Millay, an early 20th Century American poet that the New York Times described as "an idol of the younger generation during the glorious early days of Greenwich Village [...] One of the greatest American poets of her time." And yes, it's not a coincidence that her name is incorporated into the websites name, as this talented, glamorous fashion icon and feminist activist is indeed what helped inspire the foundation of Millay Vintage. The woman behind the artfully curated business enterprise is Mary Spears entrepreneur, stylist, shopkeeper, interior designer and vintage fashion blogger. Above all, she is a lover of all things lovely. Atlanta native and a current resident of Philadelphia, her love of literature and styles of the past inspired her to leave academia in order to work with vintage full-time. She now devotes her time to both finding one-of-a-kind vintage items for her customers as well as documenting and sharing her favourite inspirations and ideas in fashion, interior design, vintage at-large and the deeper things in life with her readers on her blog.
Hi Mary. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today and to share some vintage insights and inspirations with our readers!
The term Vintage often denotes a rather fuzzy concept. What is your personal definition of it and how did you first fall in love with Vintage fashion?
That is a great question! While technically "vintage" refers to anything 20 years or older (and antique generally refers to items at least 100 years old), I really just love finding items with a past, with a story, and with a bit of character. Growing up with a single mother and not a lot of money always pushed me to be resourceful with what I wore and what I surrounded myself with at home, and I grew up really appreciating that hunt for diamonds in the rough, for items that aren't about trends but are about quality and a bit of recycling and rebirth. So I'm not much of a snob about how old an item is, what category it technically falls in, or labels I just love finding unique items that fit an ethereal, classic, and slightly bohemian aesthetic that exudes more character than any big-box store can offer.
How did the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay become an inspiration for setting up your online shop?
My background is in literature, and I always gravitated towards women writers. A favorite college professor introduced me to Edna St. Vincent Millay and I immediately fell in love with her lyrical poetry. Her work has such a sweet and subtle rhythm to it but she wasn't afraid to get a bit frisky and saucy in her writing, I loved that bit of spice she brought to her work. Beyond that, Edna was such a stunning beauty herself with her own interest in style and fashion, which I really appreciated. So often fashion can be written off as frivolous and materialistic, which is a shame since it can be such a simple and powerful way to make yourself feel more confident and comfortable in your skin. I think that general train of thought (that is, style as a tool of empowerment) really pushed me to start looking at the intersections of women's rights and women's fashion, and I started taking a closer look at how clothing from each decade broadly conveyed the different standards expected of women from that time ”what society wanted the ideal woman to look and act like and ways that women either conformed or fought against those ideals. I have a lot of similar feelings about interiors and interior design, but broadly speaking, Edna St. Vincent Millay (to me) symbolizes the idea that intelligence, beauty, and a bit of edginess can co-exist in such a beautiful way and those characteristics are pillars of my brand.
How does wearing Vintage differ from wearing modern clothing? Can Vintage pieces inspire a distinct dress sense and deliver a cloth-wearing experience that modern fashion simply cannot do in the same way?
There are a few advantages to vintage clothing when compared to modern clothing, but the two that I prioritize are quality and uniqueness.
For the price, you cannot beat the quality of vintage construction. Vintage pieces were made to suit the body, not the hanger, and the average piece was generally assembled with the same attention to detail that only high-end designers today offer.
But more importantly, to me, is that vintage offers a way to add layers of individuality to your wardrobe, these are not pieces that you will see every other person walking down the street wearing, but can also be incorporated in your closet in very modern ways. Vintage (and antique) pieces don't have to look ostentatious or costumey. Pairing a vintage top with jeans, a basic top with a beautiful vintage skirt, or simply wearing a striking vintage gown for a formal occasion, these are the outfits that always makes me feel and look my best. They offer that je ne sais quoi that constantly leaves people asking me where I got this or that, and makes me feel the most like I've spent time conveying a sense of me rather than a sense of what x or y store currently wants me to be.
Vintage fashion and design is often thought about as a female domain. Vintage dresses, mirrors, accessories are obvious examples which are naturally exclusively talked about in connection to women's fashion. Do you see potential for this to change and for Vintage to become more dominant in men's wardrobes and homes too?
Oh absolutely! My aesthetic in particular is largely very ethereal, which generally gets translated into "every femininest"but I'm always striving for an elimination of that gender barrier. I mix very delicate pieces with raw denim, floral dinnerware with rustic woods and worn metals. I think there is much more to vintage than what society has deemed overtly feminine, and the more we mix those contrasts, the more "vintage" (or delicacy or whatever else feminine style is getting categorised as) can break the barriers of any gender confine. I love industrious and handsome pieces the traditionally "male" aesthetic, along with the sheer, light, floral pieces whether for my closet or my home and am always pushing people to just embrace beauty for what it is rather than trying to relegate it to a woman's domain. We have a long way to go as far as making that the default mentality in society, but I also think we've also made a lot of progress in that direction.
Can you give our readers some ideas as to how they can slowly start incorporating the Vintage style into their outfits and their living room, without having to go all out?
I am a huge advocate of mixing the old with the new, and share a lot of tips on how to do so for the wardrobe and home on my blog. While there are obviously exceptions, vintage and antique pieces are generally more ornate, so pairing those pieces with more streamlined contemporary pieces is much easier than you think. Pair your favorite basic top with a vintage skirt, layer a favorite simple sweater or blazer over a vintage dress, or mix that simple Parsons style Ikea desk with a vintage rug underneath and a vintage chair. My basic rule of thumb is to not be afraid to experiment, you never know what will mix well together!
Without having to reveal specific shops or websites (some secrets need to be kept, after all...:)) where do you find inspirations or actual pieces for your shop and your blog?
I obviously have my staple sources, but I always have my eyes peeled because inspiration is all around. While Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram offer endless amounts of eye-candy, I am most inspired by my surroundings getting out of my immediate bubble. Coffee houses, sweet little neighborhood shops, and walks around different neighborhoods are constantly inspiring to me. In Philadelphia, every street looks different from the last, with well manicured residences rubbing elbows with dilapidated buildings with overgrown brush breaking through windows, and each evoke beauty and inspiration and get the wheels turning in my head. So my advice would be to just get out, explore, and keep an open mind!
Thank you so much Mary for sharing your expertise on all things Vintage with our readers. Your ideas are truly inspiring and we can't wait to let the Vintage treasure hunt begin... Be sure to check out Mary's beautiful blog, her lovely shop and her Instagram feed.