Why do people want these “old clothes”? That is a question I’ve heard a LOT over the last six years as I have actively been acquiring and dealing in Vintage Fashion – clothing, accessories, and patterns as well as some home fashions particularly table linens. While I can’t say I have the total answer, what I can say is the answers are varied. To be clear – in this blog I’m referring to vintage items primarily those from the 1940s – 1980s. There is another whole trend to dressing in historic garments. Perhaps a topic for another day. To be considered “vintage” an item generally has to be 20 years old or older. Think about that a minute….that means as of today anything that dates back to 1999, over prior to 2000, is vintage. I can guarantee you I have pieces that old in my drawers and closet right now! But I digress….let’s get back to those “old clothes”.
The items in the photos above represent some of the wide range of items that are out in the world with new owners. Most of these have gone to individuals. However, at least one has gone to an entertainment entity. The entertainment entity is one of the reasons there is a demand for vintage fashion. Think about how many “costume dramas” are out there. From the time travel tv shows like Timeless to period shows like Father Brown or Traitors. Add to that movies and live theater. Yes, sometimes these organizations will reproduce items but at other times they will source if they can find what they want. One of the challenges with true vintage, especially getting back to the 40s, 50s and early 60s, is that people were smaller and the undergarments worn by women resulted in garments that are a good deal smaller than people are today. Professional actresses tend to be smaller, although height can still be an issue, so that whole garments can be worn.
But what about all of those individuals? Yes there are many many who are able to wear them. The orange maxi dress was destined to be worn to a summer wedding for instance. There are also those who want to just pop up modern clothing with a vintage touch – a retro feel dress for instance with a pair of fun gloves. The person who prefers clip and screw back earrings to pierced or has pierced ears but that pair of 1950s rhinestones are just too killer to pass. So it isn’t always an all or nothing.
Vintage gives you something that isn’t “everywhere” and you are far less likely to run into someone else wearing the same piece than if you went to the store everyone else is shopping. That is a big part of the draw of vintage in my opinion – the search for the unique, the different. This is when someone tends to mix vintage into their everyday wear. But there are also all sorts of subcultures that want to go all out.
By subculture I don’t mean something nefarious or dark but a group that enjoys shared activities such as car clubs or military re-enactment for example. The car clubs often seem to be pretty heavily male dominated and some (not all) will dress along the lines of their car (ie rolled up jeans, Converse tennis shoes, and a white tshirt for a 1950s vehicle for instance). Women into the cars themselves might as well but what about the wives and significant others that travel to the car shows, cruise ins, etc? They are dressing up too! Let’s face it – adults need to play and this is a great way to play. Take on a different persona. The Pin Up Girls are another group – they go all out from under garments to hair and will do photo shoots in garb. This isn’t always high glamour! Sometimes it is a more everyday look. Below is an example of that.
That unique and different look, the desire to play a bit, period entertainment, and many more reasons as varied as the individual making the purchase contribute to the answer of “who wants these old clothes?” So next time you hit the big box store and see the same same things why not try shopping a bit of vintage. You don’t have to go full on period garb but why not add a pop of unique to an outfit?