Photo via Vain and Vapid
Another one of these posts where I take something I’ve read/come across and go off in a tangent making half-finished arguments.
Anyway, read this paragraph:
“The trouble with dressing in vintage is that you have to exercise some individuality. Generally I don’t find this is necessary while shopping. I mean, who has the time? If I need a book to read, I can see what Amazon has recommended for me. Isn’t it marvellous how the internet is populated by little fairies who look over your shoulder when you’re reading reviews and note down the names of books, just like you would do yourself if you weren’t so ditsy? And when I am gripped by the realisation that I cannot live another day without a pair of peep-toed ankle boots or a short-sleeve blazer, I often find that I can spot the very item before I’ve got to the bottom of the escalator in Topshop. Amazingly, my desire turns out to be the same as that of half the people around me.”
You would think this was sarcastic, right? Well, I’m not so sure. It’s the opening paragraph from an How to Dress in the Guardian magazine, a feature that has recently advised the world on how to wear swinwear (add a kaftan), denim skirt(with a blouse or a shirt), slogan tees (with a jacket, so you basically can’t read what it says) and short suits (with heels, but only once everybody else is wearing one too). What follows from the opening paragraph is straight faced advice on how to shop for vintage: look for ‘stuff that looks as if it could be on a contemporary shop floor’, apparently.
Now apart from the fact that the opening paragraph is completely at odds with what follows, I find the advice a little confusing. Something that looks like its from a high street shop? But what would be the point of that? Isn’t the reason people buy vintage to get something unique? I do sort of get where she’s coming from, she does say something about mixing it with contemporary pieces, and I’m hardly adverse to wearing vintage with a modern twist, but it just made me wonder who the target audience for this is.
If you’re the kind of person that needs to be told what to buy, why are you in a vintage shop? If you know what ‘a silhouette, fabric or detail that ties it in with current trends’ means, you’re probably pretty interested and knowledgeable already. Surely you went into the shop because you want something special? And if you do end up with a ‘museum piece’ that looks like ‘something out of your grandmother’s closet’ then (a) that’s great, more idiosnchratic dressing is to be encouraged in my book and (b) isn’t that all part of the learning experience that comes with developing a style?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people following fashion rules. If you’re not interested in fashion, or have no time or money to go shopping and try things out, but still want to look what general society deems as appropriate, then it’s probably quite helpful to have some hard and fast rules to follow to make your journey through retail-land as quick, cheap and straightforward as possible.
But if you care about clothes and the way you look, and want to develop you own style, following advice just seems counterintuitive. Looking to others for inspiration is great, but why do we want someone to tell us what’s in and out, and what looks good or bad? The mistakes you make along the way to finding out what works for you are what it’s all about! And maybe sometimes they’re not mistakes at all, and end up looking great. If we all just followed accepted rules, we’d never have known that. It took me ages (until I was about 26) to work out what works for me and what my (tentative) style rules are. I needed all that time for experimentation and looking silly and wouldn’t have it any other way.