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a vintage-shopping based ramble

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.

Thoughts, anyone?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jayne 30 July 2009, 4:48 pm

    that actually didn't come off as sarcastic to me and although I didn't read the full article I see your point. Vintage isn't meant to be trendy or a set of rules. Like you said, if you need someone to tell you what to buy you should not be shopping vintage…

  • Oranges And Apples 30 July 2009, 5:01 pm

    well, maybe sarcastic isn't quite the right word, but if it's serious I'm very worried! "The trouble with dressing in vintage is that you have to exercise some individuality", you couldn't say that with s straight face, could you!

  • Sal 30 July 2009, 5:08 pm

    My thoughts? I ADORE you, Franca. What a bizarre take on vintage shopping. Maybe they actually meant thrift/op-shopping instead, which makes more sense. Hitting a charity shop for basics or contemporary stuff seems normal. But a place that hawks vintage gems? WHY?

  • Oranges And Apples 30 July 2009, 5:20 pm

    I know, it's weird isn't it! It's definitely vintage they are talking about, in the accompanying (?) photo she is wearing vintage Dior.

  • Chelsea Talks Smack 30 July 2009, 7:40 pm

    that pictures just makes me swoon.

  • hollie 31 July 2009, 12:37 am

    Apparently it "cool" to wear vintage, so perhaps is it because some fashion forward girls like to tell people that what they are wearing is vintage, but still want to fit in with current trends (and in turn, still dress the same as all their friends)

    I don't know. Weird!

  • Lucy 31 July 2009, 11:15 am

    I definitely agree with this, I know my silhouette and what suits it, for example, not skinny jeans, I always aim to be inspired by the clothes I buy so that each outfit is something I want to put on in the morning, colours and cuts are extremely important! But as you say, it is definitely up to the person to decide their own guidelines in vintage shopping!


  • Eyeliah SS 31 July 2009, 5:06 pm

    Yes, for that to be serious it is quite scary. But people do love to be told what to do. Remember in high school when almost everyone dressed the same, listened to the same bands and liked the same movies? That doesn't change once we are adults. People who lack creativity, are lazy or simply scared of being different always go this route. it's sad as I think we all need to be ourselves and follow our own path.

  • Missa 1 August 2009, 12:23 am

    It definitely seems to be focused toward the "wearing vintage as a fashion trend" crowd. Ironically, the clothing sold in places like Top Shop these days has become so "vintage inspired" that it seems like they might as well just skip the vintage shops altogether if worried about following the current trends. I don't know, it's all just a little bit silly to me 😉

  • elle s'ennuie 6 August 2009, 9:09 am

    If it looks like it could be from Topshop and H&M, then why buy vintage instead of modern in the first place? I like many vintage looks and I also like the idea of clothing with previous history (somehow though I don't think most people are keen on vintage for -that- reason :), but if I can get the look I'm after from vintage-inspired, then I will often choose that – because I'm not a special occasion wearer, I like to wear my pretty dresses for doing everyday stuff, and that means a lot of wear-and-wash, and vintage is not necessarily up to that… and I'd feel bad about doing that to a one-of-a-kind vintage dress as opposed to a mass-produced modern one, I guess.

    "Who has time for individuality?"
    Well, what can you even say to that?! 🙂