dabblers & devotees: an ethnography of vintage blogging


After four years of fashion blogging and two-ish in the vintage/retro/pinup scene, I think I can sort us into a few distinct, albeit occasionally overlapping, categories.

On one end, you have what Jessica of Chronically Vintage deems “vintage appropriate“: not vintage, and not explicitly vintage reproduction either, but evoking a vintage aesthetic nonetheless. Bloggers in this category do sometimes wear true vintage or repro, but it’s not the cornerstone of their look. Such bloggers are more likely to describe themselves as “retro” than straight-up vintage, and they often emphasize the modern twist. They rarely go all out, preferring instead to mix in contemporary elements and give the past a subtler nod: an heirloom brooch, Grandma’s purse.

Examples from around the blogosphere:

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In the next ring, you have “vintage inspired”. The pinups, the lindy boppers, the rockabilly dames. Often covered in tattoos. These girls tend to go for a highly stylized, almost fantastical affect. Their closets are full of Hell Bunny and Voodoo Vixen, and their look is less a representation of the past than an abstract homage to it. There’s an aspirational element to this particular corner of vintage blogging. A glamour that transcends the everyday. While the first category is about wearable retro looks, this one is about playing a character. Many such bloggers are artists or performers in their everyday lives, and it shows.


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Finally, on the “haplessly obsessive” side of things, you have the lifestylers. The immersives. The ones who have a separate closet for their petticoats and stalk rare vintage on eBay (it sold for two dollars over my max bid, guys. Two dollars.). We in the third category certainly turn up the glitz at times, but we’re more focused on what women of old actually wore day to day – which was, sadly, a lot less flashy than pinup art would suggest. Category Two girls get asked if they’re headed to a photo shoot; Category Threes get asked if we’re in a play.

The line between Categories Two and Three can be nebulous. I’ve fallen pretty squarely into both. The main distinction I’ve noticed, though, is in accessories. In my experience, the more die-hard the enthusiast, the larger her collection of vintage hats, gloves, and brooches. Lots of bloggers wear vintage dresses, but we here in our strange little bubble refuse to forget the details.


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What do you think? Any categories I’ve missed? Any bloggers you feel were slotted incorrectly? Let me know!

Author: skye

I aspire to be a bright-eyed girl in a big city, even though I wear glasses and live in what amounts to a hole in the ground.

6 thoughts on “dabblers & devotees: an ethnography of vintage blogging”

  1. Yeah, you got me. Haha. Also, I feel like those categories are accurately described. Of the bloggers that I’m familiar with, I’d say they’re in the right categories, also. With regard to the lifestylers, I think it’s an incredible pastime. I mean, talk about dedication! It’s like living in a real life fairy tale of sorts. Very cool. 😀 If I could choose an era (even one that doesn’t exist yet hehe) and create an entire life around it successfully, I’d do it for sure. Time is really important for that, though. Heh. Oh and I love your dress. Perfect color and pattern. ❤

    – Anna


  2. I loved this post! I think you described the three varieties pretty well (and hey, thank you so much for including my blog!!!). Of course, every retro gal is so unique and different. I definitely agree that I am a retro lovin’ gal with a contemporary twist. While I love me a petticoat and full skirt and a pinup-esque look every once in awhile, I dislike makeup and will never get creative with my hair. So yeah, there’s a mix there. 😉

  3. Deeply interesting assessment and categorization system. Of the three key groups you set out, I place myself squarely in the third camp. I don’t identify as a pinup girl and while I do wear vintage fusion sometimes (my own term for the mixing of generally old with newer pieces from the 1980s onward that look the vintage part, be they repro, vintage inspired, or simply vintage appropriate), my looks are typically geared more towards the everyday real world styles of the past than of the more vixenish and/or rockabilly (and/or 21st century take on pinup) fashions. (Occasionally with a bit of goth – I’m a perpetual goth girl at heart, too – thrown into the mix for fun.)

    I admire and respect all such groups of people in our midst and love that so many different folks interpret the looks of the past and put their own fabulous stamps on them. The vintage world, I’ve long held, would be a rather dry place (and one that was far to redolent of much of the 21st century fashion world) if we all looked essentially the same here.

    Thank you very much for the thoughtful mention and link in this wonderful post, dear gal. I’m honoured!

    ♥ Jessica

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