I cannot tell you how many hours I spent in my youth watching Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Every time it came on one of the classic movie channels, I was glued to the tv. I just wanted to see Grace Kelly’s chiffon-draped form one more time as she once again coquettishly rebuffed Cary Grant’s advance. The drape, the flutter, the curves. At a certain point, this expanded to pretty much any and every movie Edith Head costumed.
And then really any classical spectacle. I would be filled with glee finding out that a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers marathon was on during some holiday. Those over-the-top fashion and dance spectacles meant to offer a mental escape to America’s Great Depression.
Ever since those early days I’ve been enamored with vintage fashion. In my 20s I’ve come to spend a good portion of my time clothed in vintage. There are many reasons why a person might choose to wear vintage, but these are mine:
There’s a reason why there is so much vintage clothing still around–it was built to last. As a sewist myself, I especially geek out over thing. But the fact is more time and care was put into clothing construction from past eras. Things don’t just fall apart like they do in our current fast fashion consumer model. The hand stitching, the underlining, the tailoring, the draping–all of it is to die for. And I know the garments will continue to last.
I say this as both a consumer and a sewist–they don’t make fabric like they used to. In some cases it’s hard to find even the types of fabrics they used to use. Certain weaves (faille, plisse, crepe) and fibers (rayon, nylon) are out of fashion. And with the types that endure, such as various cotton and silk weaves, the quality has decreased dramatically. You also just can’t find the colors or the prints that used to be prevalent (my love for well-used border print cottons and novelty print rayons is unchecked).
Straight up, the little details are what makes vintage so unique–matching belts, hand beading, self-covered buttons, self-fabric appliques, interesting fabric piecing, piped waistlines. That’s just a short list of common couture detailing found in vintage clothing. It makes every piece feel special and unique.
I have an hourglass figure. That term is used often and vaguely, but for me we’re talking a dramatic hip-to-waist ratio (over 10 inches). Because of this, the cut of most modern clothes looks frumpy on me. Nothing fits correctly. Every generation of clothing has an ideal body type that cut of the clothes is set to fit. Clothes from the mid-century, the 50s in particular, were cut for a different silhouette, one much closer to my own. I feel much more comfortable in this era of clothing because it actually looks good for my body type.
Reuse of past materials is a great and easy way to limit environmental impact. By wearing vintage, I’m choosing to participate less in the oftentimes unsustainable and unethical production of new clothing. I can’t say that I never buy new clothes, but by wearing a high percentage of vintage, I am lessening my impact.
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