On the one hand, finding high-quality vintage in the bargain bin is practically an erotic experience for me. My dress, jacket, belt, and pearls (real pearls, teeth-tested and all) cost me less than $20 combined. And they are in such good condition I could immolate myself in sacrifice. The jacket even has a grey ILGWU tag, dating it to ~1950. On the other hand, it pains me to see slices of history handled by retailers who clearly do not know what they’re worth. “Eh, this is old. No one will want it.” It’s Antiques Roadshow writ small across my lame, lame life.
I’ve been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation, and I have come to the conclusion that I am the Leslie Knope of vintage: ruthlessly passionate about something that most people agree is nice but few actually give much thought to. Parks are pleasant. So are Granny’s antique hats. But my god, woman.
Bebe Zeva of Fated to be Hated wrote a few months back on fetishization of the past and why she can’t identify with the vintage girls. It strikes her as a sort of arrested development. Bebe’s commentary always makes me think, but in this case I’m conflicted about what to think. I do cringe a little when vintage bloggers rhapsodize about the mores of the ’50s and beyond: okay, yes, you looked fabulous and men opened doors for you, but you had little, if any, social capital. That goes double if you’re not white. It’s one thing to romanticize the aesthetic of a period. Quite another to actually impose its values on the rest of the world. I do think some bloggers blur that line, and it makes me slightly uncomfortable.
But? The fashion industry as it’s currently run is growing less sustainable by the day. The endless fast-fashion seasons are not doing this planet any favors. Making vintage and handmade cool is one of the best things anyone who loves fashion and beauty can do.