Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Birmingham News Al.com : `I feel like I'm living in the wrong era.'

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Who: Valerie Childers, 29, the public relations coordinator for the Jefferson County Office of Senior Citizens Services. She lives in the Altadena area.

Before Childers went off to college at Samford University, she made a fateful trip to her parents' attic where she discovered a treasure trove of old clothes. She found about 15 boxes plus hanging racks of outfits that her mother, Brenda Childers of Kennesaw, Ga., never parted with - including dresses from her bridal trousseau.

She was amazed that they were in such excellent condition. She got the clothes cleaned and hemmed, and a signature style was born. "I just ambushed my mom's closet."

She also has clothes that belonged to her grandmother and great aunt.

"A lot of these dresses are back in style now. They're so durable, and they don't even need ironing," she said. "The funny thing is pretty much all of these outfits are 100 percent polyester."

And, she noted, all of the clothes are made in the U.S.A. "Now, you don't find a lot of clothes made in the U.S."

What are you wearing? A blue vintage Louis Ann Jrs. dress from the 1970s that belonged to her mother. The red leather handbag was her grandmother's in the'60s or'70s.

Alas, her shoes were present-day. They were Style & Co. from Macy's.

She also wore a two-tone Citizen watch, white clip-on earrings and a pearl ring that was a gift from her parents.

Beyond being stylish, what do these clothes mean to you? Not many women can say they're wearing clothes from their mom's trousseau. "I feel like I'm wearing a piece of my mom's history. She's sharing her things with me - her past, her style."

Do you buy vintage pieces, too? Yes. She likes Stefan's Vintage Clothing in Atlanta. "Buying vintage in the South is cheaper than buying it in New York."

On some people, vintage might look costumey. How do you make it work? "I feel like I'm living in the wrong era. Gosh, those were the days - the class, the style. I just love big band and swing music. I still wear my hair half up and pushed forward," she said, laughing. "This is just me."

Plus, she said it's probably no accident that she loves her job working with senior citizens, because at least if she envies their memories, she can still hear first-hand accounts. "It doesn't get any better!"

What were some of the last things you bought? "I bought two tops from Express that were off-the-shoulder and a black dress from Arden B." She wears the dress with one of her mother's belts.

Is there anything you have now that you think you might save for 30 years, for your children? She is keeping her suits and competition gowns from her years (2000, 2002, 2003) as a Miss Alabama contestant.

But as for other garments, "I don't think they would last. The clothes just aren't the same quality."

E-mail: sbrooks@bhamnews.com

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