Wednesday, 5 December 2012

What is so great about vintage?

What is so great about vintage?
My dad looked aghast at the 19th century French dresser I’d picked up for £100 in a vintage market (and he’d lugged up four flights of stairs). “It’s the kind of thing my grandmother would have had”. Equal dismissiveness for my enamel pots and pans, my penchant for wooden flooring, the ‘distressed look’ and my sincere grief at having discovered he’d thrown away his father’s old leather suitcases (sigh – they would have been a perfect receptacle for all the silk scarves I seem to have accumulated…)
He has a point though. Vintage is second hand. It’s been used by someone else. So why do we go so doolally for the clothes that others have worn before us?

The recession has made us all value hunters
We used to love labels. The bigger, the better – preferably in capital letters on the front of a T-shirt, and any diamante as an added bonus. I shiver to think of some Abercrombie Tshirts languishing at the back of my wardrobe that I wore with such pride in my mid-teenage years. We loved these labels because they demonstrated a sign of success, class and status. But now, when the average shopper is strapped for cash, we relish a bargain. We boast about discounts and great finds. And we expect more. We don’t want to compromise on quality. Or what makes us look and feel good.

Independence is the new black
As well-known chain store brands gobble up our traditional high street, it is not uncommon that we find mirror images of our wardrobes in the street. My Topshop red duffle coat kept bumping into other Topshop red duffle coats last winter. And yet – while we haven’t lost our animal instinct to fit in as part of the pack and stay on trend – we now want the paradoxical aim of standing out at the same time. Indepedence is the ultimate fashion trend.In fact, independence is becoming a style in itself. Vintage is the never ending pot for independent fashion, and at reasonable costs – we can pair the basic black tank top with a 60s mini skirt, a pair of leggings with an old silk shirt belonging to grandma, the simple winter wool dress with some chunky character earrings and a quirky scarf dug out of a box of treasures found in deepest darkest Shoreditch. We can also be guaranteed no one else has it. The cool factor suddenly multiplies.
Family got cool
These days, borrowing from your siblings is downright boring. It falls to raiding the wardrobes of parents, grandparents and any distant relations you can lay your hands on. Scratchy woollen jumpers from the 70s; all in one ski suits; cameo brooches; the elusive fox fur; this brings the concept of family heirlooms to life, and makes family wearable. It’s a simple anthropological fact. People feel proud in the get up of their ancestors, and everyone has their family crown jewels – whether as classy as a pearl necklace or as brash as that multi-coloured sequined Christmas jumper you trot out for every party between mid November and Valentines Day. Wearing family clothes makes us feel safe, special and part of something. It’s a short-term escape from consumerism that we don’t even realise we crave.

We’re running out of ideas
History is cyclical, my friends. And while our social diktats call for different styles of clothes – sadly, the opportunity  to wear full length ball gowns is increasingly limited – we borrow and borrow again from our past.  These can be influenced byc our silver screen heroes, as seen by the prevalence of flapper dresses with the Great Gatsby film. Hell, even ruffs tried to make a brief reappearance. Originality isn’t dead – it’s just we haven’t had a new trend in a while. So we’ve made a trend out of borrowing from our past, and vintage is the ultimate library for us borrowers.

Fashion is for the masses
As styles have gone in and out of fashion, so have body shapes. And whatever shape you were blessed with by your parent’s DNA, you forced your body to fit the style of the day, with hoops, corsets, Spanx and any other sartorial imprisonments you could find. What is genius about vintage is that all women – of any size, age, shape – can find an age that’s right for them.
And so we wear vintage with pride.

By Ilana Lever

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