Vintage clothes – adventures in imagination
Wearing vintage is grown-up dressing up. It links us to our childhoods. Remember those halycon girlhood days, in and out of the dressing up box, matching shoes (far too big), with scarves, scarves with gloves, gloves with hats? Trying out different make-up styles from the teeny magazines?
Wearing vintage conjures up the same kind of excitement. It’s about trying on another life, for size. Fancy feeling as sexy as 50s pin-up girl? Or want to find out what the Land Girl from the Second World War might have felt like? With vintage, we can inhabit a different life for a day, then move onto another one. Be a film star today, and a factory girl tomorrow.
The clothesmaker’s art
One of the unexpected joys of vintage clothes is in the practical skills of repairs and alterations. Most of us are part of a generation where skills such as seamstressing and sewing were not handed down from our mothers and grandmothers. And probably weren’t taught at school. So, many women today are going out to the high street, or going online, to learn these incredibly useful and absorbing skills.
Knowing how to take in, let out, repair zips and buttons and even patch, are skills that a new generation of stylish women is keen to learn. Learning the art of altering and repairing vintage clothes is about much more than retro-fashion. There’s a practical element to it – these days few of us can afford to throw out great clothes. There’s even (dare I suggest?) a spiritual dimension – learning the basic skills of dressmaking link us to previous generations like no history book ever could. These are creative and absorbing skills, requiring patience, attention to detail and perseverance. The opposite of our day-to-day experience.
Women who wear vintage
Women who love vintage are people with imagination. They won’t succumb to the latest high-street trends. They value great design, excellence in manufacture, and longevity. They aren’t interested in our wasteful culture based on discarding our wardrobes once a year.
Women who love vintage don’t need catwalk-model figures and looks either. They look amazing because their clothes have a unique style, tailor-made for the individual woman. They know how to make the best of their figures – their busts, waists and legs, no matter what the size. They attract admiring looks on the high street because their style says something about them beyond where they choose to shop.
What kind of vintage clothes shopper are you?
Maybe, like me, when you visit a new town the first thing you do is find out where all the charity shops are. Maybe you are a specialist vintage shopaholic, seeking out the best vintage shops in the big cities of Britain. Maybe you’re a charity-shop devotee, hungry for the latest stock. Maybe you’re an online browser, continually searching for that elusive bargain.
I won’t deny that vintage clothes shopping takes time. The best things in life are not free, and when it comes to vintage, clothes might be very cheap in money-terms, but may take a substantial slice of time to find.
A shopping trip that ends empty-handed is disheartening but sometimes it’s the right thing. Women who love vintage won’t spend their money on useless clothes that they’ll never wear. They are not the creators of wardrobes full of unworn brand new clothes. On the contrary, they are the women who recycle the unwanted wardrobes of lesser (although maybe richer) women. Whom do we admire more?
Successfully buying and wearing vintage clothes means becoming something of a connoisseur. After a few missteps, on entering a shop, or visiting a vintage website, you’ll become alert to the key bargains to be had. You’ll understand the different fabrics, you’ll recognise the top designer labels. You’ll be knowledgeable about the clothes-making process. Modern clothes made in sweatshop factories far away will seem like an anathema to you. It all takes time, but the rewards are great.
Vintage clothes-shopping is an act of the imagination. A dream, fulfilled. A life beyond the workaday mundane. Vintage makes a statement about the kind of person you are and the kind of world you would like to live in – a world that is at once stylish, individual and at the same time cares about the past and cares about the future. Dressing-up was never so much fun.
Style is all about finding something new and fresh to wear. Styles quickly go out of fashion but as soon as you know it, they’re back in again – fashion, like life, goes in circles. But invariable, “new” high street styles are actually vintage looks given a modern twist. Take the polka dot dress. First emerged in the 50s, reinvented in the 60s. Part of Top Shop’s latest range today. All the latest designers are continually plagiarising fashion’s back-catalogue for ideas to contemporise. They find the best cuts, the best materials – they cherry-pick what worked from the decades of amazing styles.