Happy Vintage Accidents
Aug 3, 2016 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
While scanning the internet for random nuggets of information (and I don’t mean just cat videos!), I stumbled upon this article on Lilly Pulitzer. I have always admired her pieces – they immediately transport me to a vision of relaxation where I am lounging on a beach with none of the awkward discomfort that comes with heat (and annoying sweat!). In my Lilly Pulitzer-inspired vision I am a goddess exuding zen and serenity. Clearly I need to stock my closet full so I can handle day-to-day stress! Imagine my surprise when I found out the muse for this beloved brand was the simple act of being clumsy. That’s right – an entire iconic fashion movement was launched on the heels of fruit juice stains. How can you not love that?
This seemingly random happenstance got me thinking. Pouring over my former articles I was remembering other happy vintage accidents – when a special mixture of circumstance, creativity, and perseverance changed the course of history. Check out this compilation of the greatest hits and let me know what you would add to the list in the comments!
Side note: Not to sound too over-the-top, but you have to admire the life lesson here. When something unexpected goes wrong (à la a pesky, rogue grape) you don’t let it defeat you, you turn it into something grand. You take the power away from the unexpected down-turn and make it into a positive. If it ends up being absolutely fabulous too, then that’s just a bonus! As Lilly herself has been quoted to say “I didn’t set out to be unusual or different, I just wanted to do things my way.”
Ever think about what would have happened if Edward Hudson Lane hadn’t ran into his woodshop teacher on the way to checking out the abandoned manufacturing plant he inherited? On that particular day he was not too sure of what to do with the plant; without this guidance what would have happened? I shudder to think – would we have the beautiful Acclaim collection to drool over??
In 1907 Leo Baekeland was a chemist on the hunt for a shellac alternative. Instead he invented bakelite. What would have happened if he decided this discovery was a failure, rather than explore its possibilities? My bangle-loving heart can’t handle it!
The teddy bear
I adore teddy bears, but what would we have called them without the pioneering bravado of Morris and Rose Michtom? At the time they were working full-time jobs; making bears was a hobby. They could have easily packed it in, but instead they wrote to the President of the United States for an endorsement – and in an amazing twist of vintage fate – he wrote back. The teddy bear was born and the five year old me says a big thank you!
Combine one woman’s quest for fuller lashes with one smart brother, sprinkle on some luck and you have the recipe for success in the cosmetics industry! Thinking about the ingredients list begs a couple obvious questions: what if Mabel didn’t get creative with vaseline and coal dust; what if Tom was a typical 19-year-old with his head in the clouds rather than being blessed with a keen eye for business? Astounding to think that an international brand has these amazing roots!
He’s responsible for some of the most iconic movie shoe designs of all time (Marilyn over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch, anyone?) But do you know he was thrust into the shoe spotlight because his boss thought he was goofing off at work? In the mid-1920s he was working for Vogue’s fashion illustration department. His superior reprimanded him for taking too long on the shoe sketches. David could have shaped up and conformed to the boss man’s expectations, but instead he shipped out; using this event as the inspiration to jump-start a whole new career! Thank goodness he did…
Dear reader, let’s revisit Lilly Pulitzer’s quote again. While I label these moments vintage happy accidents, it’s easy to see that while the initial influence may have been an accident or happenstance, the difference between a blip and a historical moment rested on the person’s reaction. I challenge you as I’m challenging myself – let’s look at life’s accidents as opportunities. Who knows, we may stumble into the next great thing that will inspire future vintage enthusiasts!