By Karen Rempel
When I was a little girl, I loved playing dress up. In Canada we had a show called Mr. Dressup that was on every weekday morning from the time my family got a television until the mid-90s. His puppet friends Casey and Finnegan were part of the fun, but the moment I liked best was when Mr. Dressup opened his magical Tickle Trunk and put on a costume and played make-believe. When I learned that my Scottish friends across the street, Karn and Stuart, had a dress up trunk, so tantalizingly close by, I wanted to go over and play at their house every day. Unfortunately, their mother wasn’t too keen on frequent visits, so it was a rare treat when I got to go over and talk my friends into playing dress up in the basement. This was taking dressing Barbie to the next level, being the glamorous doll I fantasized about! I remember a fur stole (probably moth-eaten), a gold brocade gown, and high heels that were (of course) much too big for me. But I loved wearing this ensemble, tottering around the underground room and preening in front of a standing mirror. I always wanted Stuart to dress up and be my date, but since he was only five years old he really wasn’t interested. Sadly, this set the tone for my love life for decades to come. Hetero Canadian guys just don’t enjoy getting dressed up—they prefer a nice plaid wool shirt and jeans.
After wearing the vintage ice blue Victor Costa dress for my column last month, I thought I should pay another visit to New York Vintage and see what they might have in store for me. Oh my God! NYV is a vast treasure trove of vintage goodies—rack after rack of the most exquisite designer garments, as well as hats, gloves, shoes and jewelry. I think my heart stopped for a minute, there was so much beauty in that room. I honestly didn’t know where to begin or how to take it all in. But in a magical way, just like on Mr. Dressup, a few special garments beckoned for my attention, and before I knew it I had put together a fantastical ensemble. (See karensquirkystyle.com for the final piece, a stunning YSL quilted red satin jacket.)
Many girls dream of being a ballerina. Not me! I dreamed of getting dressed up and going on exciting dates. I should have been born in the West Village, not in a dull suburb of Vancouver called Burnaby. When I first came to New York, in 2014, I knew I was home. Soon after, I started taking ballet classes at the Joffrey Ballet School. It still blows my mind that anyone who lives in New York can take classes at one of the best ballet schools on the planet. Even during the pandemic my teacher is giving Zoom classes for her regular students. I am remedial, to say the least, but my legs love the feeling of the classic barre exercises. Tendu, piqué, plié, passé, rond de jambe. So, I couldn’t resist the chance to put on a pretty tutu and dress up as a ballerina. Just like the shoes in the trunk from my childhood, the shoes I found at NYV are much too big for me. But they are so high, if you squint your eyes they create a certain illusion. This is as close as I’m going to get to being en pointe!
For more fun Philip Maier photos, see karensquirkystyle.com.
Vintage ballerina costume from Gerry Reed. Cream satin and tulle, decorated with carved wooden flowers and butterflies, twigs, netting, and gold spangles. New York Vintage. 117 West 25th Street.
Yves Saint Laurent quilted cherry satin jacket (not in this shot; see karensquirkystyle.com). New York Vintage. 212-647-1107.
Black silk top hat with red silk band. New York Vintage. newyorkvintage.com
Vintage cream and black platform 9½” fetish shoes. New York Vintage.