They call me Dandy Millennial, I dress like it’s the 19th Century

When I put on my first vintage suit, bought at an American fair, I felt whole. Even though it was too big, I looked in the mirror and thought, “This is me. I have always been this.”

  • 1 year ago
  • January 9, 2023
5 min read
Santiago recreates vintage fashion by dressing in 1880's styles Santiago recreates vintage fashion by dressing in 1880's styles | Photo Courtesy of Patricio Perez
Interview Subject
Santiago Pellegrini grew up in Florida, a town in Vicente Lopez, Buenos Aires, just 15 kilometers from the federal capital of the country. He currently resides in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Both in his native neighborhood and in the capital, the way people dress often goes unnoticed, except in his case. Santiago gained notoriety by dressing exclusively in 19th Century attire.
Background Information
Historical re-enactment, in different variants, is a widespread modality throughout the world. In Argentina, among other groups, there is the Victoriana Augusta Association, of which Santiago Pellegrini was a part. The association, founded in 2009, was inspired by a Spanish initiative (from which it takes its name) which was founded in the city of Logroño in 2007. Its members meet regularly to live an immersive experience that somehow transports them to another era: they recreate clothing and customs from a certain period of time. In the case of Santiago, the difference is that he lives every day of his life in 19th Century attire.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Each day when I wake up, I dress in 19th century attire. I put on thick, alpaca, high-waisted pants from 1910 with suspenders. A 1920’s shirt falls to my knees. I feel its weight on my shoulders.

I throw on a 1940’s vest and oxfords and I’m ready to hit the streets. No one looks like me. Until I turned 18, I dressed in modern clothes with a darker vibe, but I always felt like I hadn’t found a style that matches my personality. I liked tango, jazz, and classical music. When I started dressing this way, I felt like I found myself.

As I saw him walking with a top hat and cane something stirred inside me

When I was 18, my mom and dad gave me a white hat with black dots. I wore it with everything. I went everywhere with that hat on, even to school, but I still did not feel complete.

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After taking a job at an antique fair, I met a friend who dressed in an old English style. I saw him walking around with a top hat and a cane, and I felt something vibrate inside me. His style fascinated me. Once I spoke to him, I began researching how to pull it off myself.

Before Santiago began dressing in 19th-century outfits, he wore a modern, dark style of clothing. | Photo Courtesy of Santiago Pellegrini

When I put on my first vintage suit, bought at an American fair, I felt whole. Even though it was too big, I looked in the mirror and thought, “This is me. I have always been this.”

Like a detective, I like to investigate. I never stop until I find the exact information I am looking for. I put this skill to work collecting old photos until I had more than 1,500 of them. Ranging it date from 1860 to 1930, I organized them by gender, age, and number of people featured. It inspires my look.

A suitcase teleports me to the past

Once, I found a suitcase containing more than 200 old photos. Regretfully, I sold 40 of them at the fair. The family whom the suitcase belonged to, left inside one particular picture. On the back, it contained the name of the person pictured. On the internet, I searched for him and the house in the photograph.

Typing “Gonzalo Inchauspe Duprat” in my browser, a guy with a giant beard appeared on a genealogy page. It looked as though he was standing in his general store, behind the counter. I saw the names of his children in blue hyperlinks. Clicking through the links, photographs of the children loaded on screen. It included details about their children’s children, letters, and books.

Santiago in his vintage outfits today. | Photo Courtesy of Santiago Pellegrini

Inside that same suitcase, I found letters, books, and an auxiliary police bracelet dating back to 1937 from an event called the Eucharistic Congress. I deepened my research and came across a Frenchman named Eugene Michel Dastas-Boe. Born in 1847, he lived for 19 years. Born in France, he came to Argentina in the 1860’s to study for pharmacy. Each bit of research and each person I encountered, inspired my journey.

It all felt very significant to me. Some may not see any of this as important, but to me, I feel like my work and my way of life keeps their memories alive somehow. In a sense, I rescue them from oblivion.

Known now as Dandy Millennial, I feel called to rescue the past

Dressing like I do and learning about individuals from 19th century allows me to recover a time when things were different. I enjoy that time, when people listened to music on a record player rather than YouTube, for example. When music escapes out of a record player, something mechanical takes place. It feels ritualistic and it leads you to action. You have to wind it up, move the records, and place the pick down. The process feels romantic – more so than clicking on a screen and nothing more.

My lifestyle and experiences certainly stray from the norm, and people notice. I interviewed with a major media outlet once and they nicknamed me “Dandy Millennial.” I like that, so it became my identity on social media. Today, it has become the name by which people greet me on the street.

I am convinced that I carry this way of being from a past life. I believe in those things. No one has ever taught me how to starch shirt collars or how to play the bandoneon (an instrument in Argentina that is similar to an accordian.) Yet, I know how to do it. Where does that come from?

From a young age, something stirred inside me for this way of life. When the Ford Model A’s revved their engines at the vintage car club down the street from my childhood home, excitement filled me. A connection always existed that I couldn’t explain. My purpose and my message today is to return to the world the beauty of the past.

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