Ten years ago, it was easy to spot a vintage dress on a rack full of modern garments. Patterns and fabrics peeking from the folds of secondhand clothing racks pointed a clear path to the good find. It was simple. Well, at least it seems that way in hindsight. These days, those hints can really throw you off. A 60's print turns out to be a Joe dress from last season. A pretty 70's floral print jumper, just another F21 castaway. Even crochet purses and floppy felt hats have modern origins.
I remember discussing the arrival of Forever 21 in my city with fellow vintage clothiers, knowing full well that most buyers don't really care if an item is vintage, they just want to keep up with current trends. If the 70's is in, why not go to the department store, find a style of bell bottom jeans you like, and pick out your exact modern size in them. To top it off, you'll be paying around $20 for them (maybe less). On the flip side, buying a pair of vintage bells means searching locally and online for a while, perhaps having to bid out another buyer, pay more, and possibly not ever find the perfect fit because let's face it, denim has changed a lot in the past 35 years. But you know what? I still believe the search is worth it.
There's something wonderful about owning a vintage garment that fits you just right, feels good, and looks fantastic. They can be very well made, often one of a kind, unusual and eye catching. I worried that the fast fashion equivalent of vintage style would diminish the value of true vintage era clothing, but I've come to see that isn't true. Modern mass produced fashion is derivative and disposable and I think we can all agree it's obvious. The construction is sub-par, meant to last a season before it's cast away so buyers keep buying. We know when we purchase that $15 sundress that it isn't special. Yes, it might be a good score for tonight's occasion, but it hasn't made the impact on us that something which has survived 4 decades or more to be sitting in our wanting hands has. That dress from 1969 is a veteran, deserves your respect, and is far less likely to be donated or discarded a year from now. It holds it's value as each year passes. Like a vintage wine it ages with grace.
I may be a romantic, and entirely too emotionally involved in the process, but I feel like vintage clothes and accessories tell a story about the people who made it, sold it, bought it, loved it and passed it on. The actual tactile experience of feeling the authentic textiles of that era, the now mellowed colors and patterns of a time past, the careful construction techniques which allowed this piece to survive as long as it has. These elements combined add value that cannot be diminished by the pale effort of trendy fashion chains.
Buy your basics in the now, but for the real sartorial score . . .
VIVA VINTAGE all the way my friends!