Gunne Sax Addicts
Hi, my name is Emily, and I am addicted to Gunne Sax dresses. Ever since the day I tried on my first Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock (or Gunne Sax “Black Label” for the OG’s), I was instantly hooked. These dresses somehow capture the inexplicable romance of the medieval, Renaissance, prairie, Edwardian, and antebellum periods – all mixed into one brand of dress. There is a mix of innocence, sex appeal, beauty, and femininity – and each dress containing different proportions of each. Corset-style lace up bustlines, mysterious hoods for those lucky enough to find an ever-elusive hooded Gunne Sax dress (I’ve been lucky enough to own two), poet necklines, leg o’mutton sleeves, calico print, velvet, canvas, lace – I could go on. In my collection of over 100 dresses (I rationalize this by the fact that the majority are currently or will be for sale at the Hello Vintage store), no two are alike, yet each dress captures the same fantastical spirit.
I’ve worn dresses to occasions ranging from Renaissance Faires, Easter Sunday, traveling abroad, shopping with friends, going to school, going to the grocery store, and, if I can’t find an occasion, Instagram.
For the uninitiated, here is a brief rundown of the brand and why it is so special: Hailing from San Francisco (shoutout to the YAY AREA!!), the Gunne Sax label began in 1967 by Carol Miller and Elanor Bailey. Their vision was to create “sexy gunny sack” dresses – thus the name Gunne Sax (a cheeky combination of gunny sack + sex) The original labels were black, hence the term “black label” for the pre-McClintock Gunne Sax dresses. In 1969, Jessica McClintock bought out the label and began creating her own designs. Based off of my own observations, the pre-McClintock designs were mostly made with some form of burlap/canvas fabric and were mostly Renaissance-inspired, while McClintock’s designed were much more feminine and referenced a wider variety of eras. Of course, there are HUNDREDS of different dress designs, so unless I was somehow granted access to a library or comprehensive collection of these designs, I’ll have to settle for my own little (ha!) collection of over 100 unique dresses.
McClintock’s acquisition of the Gunne Sax label came at a very opportune time, as the 1970s was the heyday of the prairie dress revival. Women across America were channeling their inner Laura Ingalls Wilder for proms, formals, graduations, bridesmaid dresses, and even wedding dresses (I’m looking at you, Hillary Rodham Clinton). In my short stint as a vintage clothing store owner, I have heard dozens of women reminisce on their trips to the Gunne Sax outlet in San Francisco. This was almost always a mother/daughter affair, where they had fond memories of picking their perfect dress.
I suppose one of the only drawbacks of the Gunne Sax brand was its sizing. Gunne Sax dresses only went up to a vintage size 13, which is the equivalent to a modern size 8 at best. Because of this, authentic and un-altered Gunne Sax dresses are limited to those whose measurements fit below a 36″ bust and a 30″ waist. Any larger and you’ll be busting out – no pun intended (the corset lacing is deceivingly unforgiving). However, all hope is not lost. As with many trendy fashion items, Gunne Sax dress styles were copied the world over. So you may find your dream dress in your dream size with a bit of luck.
We LOVE sharing the magic of Gunne Sax, and we cannot wait to see you in your dream Gunne Sax dress. Interested in selling us your Gunne Sax dress(es)? E-mail us at hello@hellovintage - we'd love to give your special dress a new life!