A couple of weeks ago, in Ask Hadley in the Guardian, there was a question from a woman whose friend had told her that she should stop wearing vintage clothes because she was too old, because “vintage clothes look interesting and arch up to your mid-30s, but beyond then, they just look – and I quote – ‘as if you haven’t bought any new clothes for several decades’.” Somebody then left a comment saying: “You can’t wear vintage with ‘modern’ hair and make up, or the dress ends up wearing you, and you can’t treat it like a bit of tat you bought in Topshop. Most young people (or middle aged people who still act like teenagers, hem-hem) don’t have the knowledge or patience to wear vintage properly, nor do they have the faces – fashion, then, was aimed at women, not flat-chested fresh-faced girls.”
Which then sparked some back and forth commenting, should you be inclined to check it out. But what I really want to say is that I don’t think this is an argument about age at all or it shouldn’t be, it’s ridiculous to suggest that there’s an age limit on something as broad as vintage, and Hadley managed to nicely shoot down the letter writer’s friend’s argument. I think that this is really about two different ways of wearing vintage.
On the one hand there’s the ‘authentic’ vintage girls, who dress almost completely in vintage clothes, and if there’s anything anything modern it is vintage in style. An authentic vintage style is of course not complete without vintage style make-up and hair, and victory rolls and beehives rule. And I am in awe of the amount of knowledge people who have chosen to go in for a completely vintage style in their every day life have. I can just about identify 1950s clothes (because that’s my decade of choice), but trying to place anything older than 1940s would be an impossibility for me.
‘Mix and match’ vintage
On the other hand, there’s those of us who like wearing vintage, but in a more contemporary way. We treat vintage as part of the repertoire from which we mix and match our outfits, treating it like a bit of tat from Topshop I suppose! Not really, obviously mix and match girls understand the value and specialness of vintage, but it’s about integrating vintage pieces with other aspect of one’s style. This may be wearing something old with new pieces, or the use of clashing bright colours, or other elements which have nothing whatsoever to do with the era from which the garment originates. In a way, wearing vintage in a mix and match style is almost the default position, and probably most people who wear vintage would end up going that way, simply by virtue of wearing whatever they were wearing before but adding some old stuff. It’s what will happen naturally. But I think it can actually a more thoughtful thing than that, being about seeing the old in a new way, or finding a way of merging old and new into something more than the sum of it’s parts.
As you can see from the way I have written this up, I’m clearly identifying myself as a mix and matchy type of girl! I hadn’t even planned on coming down on one side like that, but it just happened! I have actually been getting a bit more into the authentic style recently, but that’s been mainly for special occasions. I admire anyone that maintains an authentic vintage style at all times (I admire anyone that maintains any non-mainstream style at all times!), and I’d love to know someone in real life who dresses like that so I could swoon over them, but it’s just not something I want to do myself.
What do you think? Which do you prefer (if either)? If you’re a vintage wearer, would you identify themselves as either? Or something else entirely?