Why Vintage?

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile but my endless trips down the vintage rabbit hole in search of treasure have slowed me down. That and the fact that when I find something wonderful I can't just accept its wonderfulness. No, I have to take the time to research it and find out what it is and why it is, which means the treasures occaisonally get a bit backlogged before I get them turned around and headed back into the world for a fabulous new life.

Lipstick Red Taffeta Circle skirt dress with a tiny red bolero.
1950s. Swiped from my mom's closet, the beginning of
my fascination with beautiful clothes.

On top of that I am a studio artist working with repurposed materials so the old schedule is pretty full. That being said, I am passionate about vintage. It has so many levels and tiers of wonderfulness. Here are a few:

1. Clothes used to be constructed to be worn by human beings not hangers.
If you look at the construction of vintage clothes--pre-china and pre-outsourcing to other countries, you will find that they were made to be worn by people instead of coat hangers. Try them on and feel the difference as well as see it. Clothes in the 30s-70s were meant to be tried on to be appreciated and their hanger appeal is minimal.

 A little black dress may look like nothing on the rack, like this little Chinese silk black dress, but put it on and holy cow! It makes the body exotic and fabulous.

You can walk through any store in the mall today and find absolute forests of really cute clothes but have you ever noticed how many things you have to try on to find something that fits right? Have you noticed that there are always huge sales racks with deep discounts in all the stores? Clothes nowadays are designed to be have "hanger appeal" and turn over fast.

This means we have become a nation of  frustrated clothes horses. We keep buying clothes that are not well made because they are made fast in search of a sale. Somewhere, we Americans have gotten the idea that clothes are disposable. Every time we turn around there are new cute clothes out there that we can buy cheaply and discard quickly. Who wouldn't succumb?

2. Construction and Fabric in Vintage Clothes Are Amazing
I'm always hunting for gorgeous clothes from the 30s forward to the front edge of the 80s, my personal cut off point. Sorry, I really have a problem with football player shoulder pads in a sexy dress unless I'm planning to pound someone later, which kind of lets out most of the 80s for me. I can't help but love dresses like this ribbon taffeta with a really full rustly skirt in a black and white check. It has shirt cuffs and a shirt collar and its right out of Mad Men.

Not only are these clothes made for humans and not hangers, they are made to last in almost every case. Before outsourcing to China, Mexico, Indonesia and other second and third world countries started, clothes were made in America by Americans who cared about what they were making. They had pride in those garment workers union labels sewn inside. Caveat:Bespoke clothes made in Hong Kong are killer, as are 60s British outfits when you can find them.

Designers and retailers knew that people didn't have enough disposable income to replace an entire wardrobe every year. Clothing was made to last, launder and wear well--or people wouldn't buy your brand again. Most women had a 'statement suit' and a 'little black dress' in the closet along with a lot of cotton based clothing. Yes, we had to iron everything but man, those cotton clothes felt so good against your skin. Wash and Wear was only for undies until chemistry caught up with our ever faster and busier lifestyle.

I still find myself gravitating to cotton and if I ran the world there would be a test for who was allowed to wear A)Spandex or B)yoga pants.

3. Price
Look for high quality wools in coats and really luxe fabrics at affordable prices in vintage, especially in gorgeous coats. This white Susan Lynn coat from the 60s looks like it was never worn, exquisitely cut, fab fabric and beyond beautiful--and affordable.

You may notice that gorgeous vintage stuff is still pretty much less spendy than the new stuff. I'm not a big fan of newer pop star designer labels stuck on badly finished clothes which are inevitably badly made, and I cannot afford the real deal designers whose clothes have multiple zeroes on the end of a number for a price. But I can still find designers like Yves St Laurent in the vintage market for affordable dollars (relatively speaking).

Warning: Vintage garments for women, dresses especially, can have a tough time on the modern body because they were all intended to be worn with foundation garments, aka girdles, corsets and merry widows. The little Chinese number above is worn by a tiny little size 4 modern girl who had a tough time squeezing into it,but vava voom when she got there!

Measure something of yours that fits really well and measure the vintage garment you would like to purchase--or try it on first if you can. Size tags have changed too, and they are not always accurate so measure, measure, measure.


 The 70s are coming back with a vengeance right now and all those cute shifts and linen dresses will be hot items this summer. Look for op art and pop art and bright colors be on trend.

And I haven't even mentioned shoes and purses yet.....


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