Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why wear vintage?

Why do we wear vintage? A common stereotype is that vintage-wearers would prefer to live in the past.  Or, is it because vintage clothing is often more eye-catching, better made or better suits one’s body type than many contemporary garments?

This recent article from Harper’s Bazaar on New York’s fashionable women in vintage is one of the better written fashion accounts of why we wear vintage.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The “Uniqueness” of Vintage

1960s yellow dress

My favorite 1960s yellow dress

Meet my favorite yellow dress. I photographed it on a cloudy day, so the picture might not fully communicate how sunny and exuberant this dress is. It’s like running through a field of wildflowers on a July day! I wear my yellow dress whenever I need to wake up and/or cheer up. It’s impossible to feel down when you’re wearing hot pink flowers with bright green stems on a sea of lemon yellow. Whenever I wear my yellow dress, people smile at me and sometimes ask me where the dress came from. They ask, “Is it vintage?”

details on yellow dress

I wore my dress this past weekend in Chicago, where I had a conversation with an anthropologist friend, Veve Lele. He wondered, What is it about the dress that communicates that it’s vintage? Is it the print? The color saturation? Something about the texture of the fabric that communicates it’s older, more worn? Its silhouette? We had a great discussion about how vintage dress is both an artifact of the past and material objects of the here and now.

Today my yellow dress is unique and stands out because we – as consumers – don’t see these prints or exact colors anymore. I love 60s yellow clothing – the yellows vary from sunny lemon to darker goldenrod. I rarely, if ever, see those exact yellows today. I’ve noticed that today’s bright yellows in fashion almost always have a greenish/chartreuse cast to them, and the goldenrods a slight dull orange cast.

Older clothing reflects the technologies available in clothing manufacture at a particular time period – the types of weaving machines, knitting machines, fabric dyes, etc. For example, there’s a reason that 1950s tweeds look different than today’s. They were manufactured on weaving machines that no longer exist, and unless someone has an old tweed weaving machine around, they cannot be made again.

It is these aspects of vintage clothing that makes them appear unique today. And surveys of vintage consumers have demonstrated that uniqueness is one of the biggest draws of vintage.

But is my yellow dress really unique? It’s only time and context that make it so. When I bought my dress (at lulavintage in St. Paul), it had a friend – a wide-brimmed hat in the same print, which was unfortunately too small for me. I also seem to recall that I saw this print when I was a child – in fact, I think I had a reversible parka of nearly the same print with green as the background color instead of yellow. My yellow dress no doubt once hung on a rack with its siblings of different sizes. They were purchased, worn, perhaps stained, torn or donated away years ago, leaving my yellow dress the last one standing (at least in its immediate geographic area), so that now it appears unique.

In anthropology and sociology, there’s an approach called Rubbish Theory which explains this process. Once mass-market items only become prized antiques/vintage after going through a period of time when most people who encountered them regarded them as rubbish, and discarded them. This makes the remaining items that were forgotten in attics or the back of closets scarce, and therefore more valuable – at least provided that the right kind of people come along and declare such items worth reviving (like how Martha Stewart revived milk glass bowls and dishes as valuable). Thus it’s sort of a survival-of-the-fittest-or-forgotten happenstance that someone held onto my dress rather than turning it into a rag that has made it appear unique in today. And for that I’m thankful.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Cheap Fashion on Last Week Tonight

John Oliver on Fashion, Last Week Tonight

John Oliver on Fashion, Last Week Tonight

“Get out! You bought that dress for only $19.95? How do they do it?” How do they do it, indeed. John Oliver explains with some laughs on Last Week Tonight’s episode on Fashion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Saturday October 26th: Come to Northtown Library and Let’s Talk Vintage!

Hey there Twin Cities Vintage Fans!

I will be giving a talk, Forever Vintage: Why We Wear the Past this coming Saturday (October 26th) at the Northtown Library from 2:00 – 3:00pm. I’m speaking as part of Anoka County Library’s Hair, Handicraft and History of Beauty Series.

I will be discussing how wearing vintage clothing became trendy and why we love secondhand clothes today! I’ll bring some of my own vintage garments. Please come and share your love for vintage! 

Here are the details:

Forever Vintage: Why We Wear the Past

When: Saturday, October 26th from 2:00-3:00pm

Where: Northtown Meeting Room, Northtown Library

Address:

707 County Road 10 NE

Blaine, MN 55434

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fashion’s Unreal White World

The New York Times has published an excellent article, Fashion’s Blind Spot, on the unapologetic whiteness of most of fashion’s runway shows.

1 Comment

August 8, 2013 · 11:33 am

Tues Jan 8: The History of Hip at the Turf Club

Image

Hey Twin Citians!

Want to learn more about the history of vintage clothing? What it’s like to run a vintage clothing store? As part of the Minnesota History Society’s History of Hip series, I will team up with Hayley Bush, owner of Lula Vintage in Saint Paul to talk about how and why wearing vintage clothing became a trend, the ins and outs of running a vintage clothing store, and the future of vintage. Come join us, get a beer, and let’s talk about vintage!

We will be at the Turf Club on Tuesday, January 8th at 7:30pm in the Clown Lounge. Tickets are $5 (free if you’re an MHS member!) and can be purchased at this link or by calling the Minnesota Historical Society at (651) 259-3015.

Happy New Year!

5 Comments

Filed under Fashion Trends, Retro Style, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

Fashion Bytes — The Original Upcycling

Is vintage a new trend? And what does it mean? Brenna from Worn Through poses many interesting questions in The Original Upcycling. I’ll share my thoughts on a number of them in my next few posts:

 

With the rise of fast fashion, is vintage a way to be a conscientious dresser since the clothing is not new, not made in sweat shops, and better made so it will last longer? Or is it overestimated? Is vintage a way to preserve workmanship, as “The Invisible Woman” called it? Do you think vintage inspires people, or do you think it goes unnoticed? Are more people wearing vintage, or is it simply getting more press? If more people are wearing vintage, what do you think are the reasons behind it? What are the benefits of wearing vintage? Do second-hand clothes still have a “stigma” of poverty or protest? Do any of you use vintage pieces to teach your students about fashion history, or are their certain construction techniques that are better illustrated by vintage clothing? Is the wearing of vintage actually a bad thing, because the wear of everyday use prevents preservation? Should vintage be given more credit for its preservation, and the good it does for the environment?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized