By Lara Trace (former singer, keyboardist)
I don’t want you to think I’m dwelling on bad stuff all the time. ME? Heck NO! I am a positively goofy “yellow bird” (a nickname) around out here in western MA… (But I do have bad days like everyone of you, of course.)
This got me to thinking about what REALLY makes me REALLY happily nostalgic.
Fabric? Music? Music, definitely. Fabric is a close second. (Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.)
Years ago I had a conversation in Seattle with a musician who told me, “music is medicine.” He even had a small record label by that name. Oprah spoke of Maxi Priest and his music is medicine HERE.
Music was my focus and life in my teens and 20s. I was a professional rock musician. It was more than a career. It was a calling… (and the weird thing is I am not finding any people in my first family who had musical talent but my adoptive parents were both talented musicians.)
In May I wrote this about cleaning my closet: what happens when I touch old band clothes.
WHO I WAS: The Dress
I don’t know about you but when I clean my closet, I do feel much better (brain wise). I put away coats, sweaters, knits and switch them out for crisp linen and cool cotton summer stuff.
I’d kept quite a few “vintage” dresses from my rock band days, which was in my 20s, eons ago. They are like a scrapbook of fabrics (yet I don’t sew a lick!)
Why do I keep them? …these are many many good reasons…
First, I am from a family of dressy women. My adoptive mom Edie wore evening gowns! I can’t even imagine a holiday dinner when she and I (and guests) weren’t dressing up. When I left home at age 17 I had little money to buy like her but I did collect a mix of vintage rayon, satin, silk and retro velvet.
Second, when you are in a rock band, you barely make rent money. Wearing unusual band clothes was a “fitting” thing to do… especially if you are female. Fitting is my way of telling you it was very hard for me to afford tailoring. The rock bands I joined had no budget, seamstresses, or dress codes. When I started in the late 70s, there were a tiny handful of female singers. (Hint: Linda Ronstadt was one. Heart came along eventually.))
Third, most of these dresses were found in thrift stores yet they are probably the most precious creations I could own or wear. One vintage 1940s black rayon midi-length has two beaded hummingbirds (see PHOTOS). I also wore this to work in Seattle, I wore it to nightclubs, I wore it on a cruise. It is still lovely but I did a crappy job hemming it years ago…I found a tiny hole in the bottom of the dress. (No tag inside means it must have been handmade.)
Fourth, mainly it’s the feel of fabric and touching recreates memory for me. (Sometimes I think being adopted did cause me some brain damage and trapped some memory in fog.) (I’ve kept some old tshirts from my travels too; some are from bands, of course.)
I think of band clothes as body armor; in a way these simple clothes create an illusion that isn’t there. Black leather pants — and what do you think?
Some of my rock band clothes were gifted. One blue velvet dress was given to me in college by a classmate (the mother of Wendy who I knew somewhat in high school). Her mom wanted me to have this family heirloom and of course I did wear it often. (I do wonder if Wendy knew about this?)
There is even a pink quilted bed jacket my mom gave me. No, I have not worn it. When did the bed jacket thing get popular? I think women in the 1930s and 40s had much better “taste” than we do now. (I’ll admit I’ve a taste for kitschy colorful table linens, too.)
The rayon green print wrap dress was found in an abandoned house in Wisconsin (my friend’s grandmother lived there and was deceased)(top photo of dresses) (I scooped up a black fur coat, too.) That green number was what I was wearing when I met Blackfoot. (You will have to read my memoir One Small Sacrifice to know that rock and roll saga). I also wore it when I sang in Automatic and then Tropic Zone in Minneapolis.
I didn’t give up on music; my first marriage killed it for me.
Maybe these dresses hold the music in me, the music of the 70s and early 80s.
And I still have the burgundy velvet mini dress with gold brocade from 9th grade that caused a major rift between my adoptive parents (mostly on how much it cost.) (Photo: Christmas 1972, there’s that velvet dress again.)
At age 23, I lived in New York City and coveted designer samples like angora sweaters. I even modelled shoes for Claudio Rocco, a high end designer from Italy. I modelled as much as I could, since it was huge money for a starving singer. I am still racking my brain for where I bought a raw silk off-white full skirt (see photo below) and matching buttonless Nehru jacket that I wore for decades! “Raw silk” even sounds good when you say it. (I think the clothing brand was Espresso.)
I don’t sing professionally anymore. I don’t even like to be in public that often. (FYI: I was a chameleon of hair color.) Today I’m salt and pepper grey. I don’t look for vintage dresses anymore. Where would I wear them?
But these very old dresses do remind me of who I was.
My dresses also represent beauty to me.
And I am still “her” in many ways.
p.s. This blog usually focuses on the serious. I wanted you to know I have a wacky silly side, too. xox
Manus x Machina at MMOA
❤ READ: The Evolution of Dressmaking HERE
Music is medicine. (Enjoy some of my music memories) It’s like taking a summer road trip with me! What’s your favorite?