A Story From My Closet #10 - Haley Sengsavanh, The Red Dress that Merges Family and Fashion

Guest article by Haley Sengavanh

Left - a pic of Haley in the “vestess” -
Right a pic of her mum in the “vestess”

One of my favourite
pieces is this red sleeveless maxi dress, with a row of buttons going down the middle. Lovingly nicknamed by my friends as the “vestess” (a combination of “vest” and “dress”), it’s a vintage hand-me-down from my mother.

Most of my closet consists of pre-loved clothing, collected from thrift shops around the world or passed down from my family members. My aunt Daisy’s hot pink checkered vest and uncle Matthew’s old jeans have become staples in my wardrobe. When I wear these pieces, it reminds me of my family and allows me to literally keep them close.

My mother, Cecilia,
bought this Portstaff “vestess” while on a trip to Spain. It’s made in Italy and she collected it at 19, the same age I am now. It was also one of her favourites, often pairing it with a black top and bottoms. That’s how she styled the “vestess” for a family portrait in the mid- ‘90s, taken after they immigrated to Canada.

This piece holds so many memories, accompanying her on trips and move after move. The portrait hangs above our sofa in the living room, and I grew up staring at the image, admiring their outfits. 

Our aesthetics are very different, so I style the “vestess” in a different way. Red is my favourite colour and I am a fan of monochromatic looks. I typically pair it with a red pleated skirt and a vintage Dolce and Gabbana plaid top, pre-loved by my aunt Louisa.

I love this piece because I can layer it according to the seasons and it complements lots of other pieces in my closet. This look is fun and bold, perfect for the spring and summer months. The “vestess” is not just a sentimental piece, but a stylish one that fits perfectly with my closet as well.

= = = = 

Haley Sengsavanh is a fashion journalist and editor based out of Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario. She loves covering all things style, culture and art. She is pursuing a journalism major and a double minor in politics and fashion studies. In her free time, you can find Sengsavanh strolling through art museums, drinking bubble tea or double-tapping on cute raccoon pictures online.