Maybe it’s because Rachel Zoe wore the color in a recent photograph (and Tweeted about it when asked what the shade was). Or perhaps the memory was triggered when my mother-in-law recently treated me to a pedicure, and I opted for the darkest shade available. And then there’s the alleged resurgence of 90s fashion — bodysuits and all — just in time for the return of Melrose Place. (Excuse me while I briefly cringe.) Whatever the case, I’ve got Vamp on the brain.
The shade that launched the dark-polish trend was not yet a phenomenon when I first laid eyes on it. I was 13, awkward and new to tony South Florida when a cosmopolitan (read: wealthy) friend of mine took me under her wing and guided me to the holy grail: The Chanel Counter at Bloomingdale’s.
The buffet of rich cosmetics, the exquisite simple packaging–I hadn’t the faintest clue what it all really meant. But the words on the bottle were in French. And it looked fancy, important. The saleswoman was prim and plastic, dressed in head-to-toe black. She may have been used to our kind. I held the bottle of Vamp. That color! Forbidden, blood-red and so completely adult. My friend casually plunked down the $15–wages from a full night of babysitting, in my world–and walked away with the latest craze.
In all my years of coveting beautiful things, this may have been a defining moment. There was the psychological effect–that powerful branding, weaseling its way into my impressionable mind. Surely there had to be some connection: The girl with the perfect violet bedroom and tanned skin wore Chanel. (And this impression endures when I see someone carrying the house’s iconic quilted bag.) But this was also the first time I recall caring about style. I had an opinion. I was taken with this polish, and, somehow, I was attuned to its significance.
The outfits we wore in the 90s did us few favors. What about long, spaghetti-strap dresses paired with t-shirts looked stylish? Oversize flannels? My 7th grade dance photos make me shudder. This is the case looking back at any decade’s trends; we know how this story goes.
Vamp is the exception. It reached cult status, sold out everywhere and spawned a gazillion similar shades. But even when it faded from fashion, it was never an outcast, a “I-can’t-believe-we-wore-that” scenario. It had its place. And like the perfect ballet-slipper pink or true red, it will always look chic.*
I’m sure I was just a sponge then–for the marketing, the brand’s aura, for whatever my more sophisticated friends were doing at the time. But as I continue to form opinions on style*, I like to think I was onto something bigger that day.
* particularly on very short nails (like mine)
* style, not fashion. They are two different things, and I am not a fashion authority.