There is something romantic about the idea of owning a small piece of history. A vintage item by definition is something that demonstrates the best and most typical characteristics of the past and is often associated with being of lasting value. This last bit I think, holds especially true.
"There is something romantic about the idea of owning a small piece of history."
I still find it incredible when I come across a dress that looks as though it could have been taken straight off the rail of a new designer collection, yet dates to a year some forty years ago. Many designers actually do hold vast archives of vintage garments from which they draw inspiration and adapt designs. This has been particularly apparent with the recent revival of all things to do with the 1970’s and so often I have done a double take walking around shops because I spot something that looks so authentic. So why buy the ‘vintage’ item as opposed to the ‘new’ version in the shops? I come back to my opening statement- because there is a quality about the real thing that can never be captured in a remake. No feeling of ‘I wonder what this dress has seen and done’ or ‘I wonder who wore this dress and where.’ How can you entirely recreate something that was a product of and response to the world at a particular time?
Made to last
Moreover, so often the quality of a garment made before the time of ‘disposable fashion’ will be much better than its contemporary counterpart. Vintage clothes were made to last and today’s culture of wearing something a couple of times before throwing it away would have seemed laughable fifty years ago (que memories of my Grandma’s voice talking about rationing during the war when I try to throw my half eaten dinner away!) Very often, clothes from 1950’s backwards were finished by hand. This evening dress dating from the early 1940’s has been almost entirely finished by hand. The edges of the fabric have been blanket stitched to prevent fraying, the modern equivalent of this is a technique called overclocking which performs the same function but can be done in a fraction of the time. Likewise, the beaded shoulders and hand finished rouleau loop fastening are a clear indication of the time and care that has gone into making this dress. Therefore, in buying clothes such as this you are purchasing a garment finished to a quality that you will pay a hefty premium for in today’s fashion market.
"The beaded shoulders and hand finished rouleau loop fastening are a clear indication of the time and care that has gone into making this dress."
Find the perfect fit
So all in all, I think its best to invest in the real thing although I suppose I am a bit biased! Apart from anything, I refuse to believe that the feeling of trying on a vintage piece and finding it’s the perfect fit can be rivalled by the equivalent experience in a modern clothes store. There are of course, some things to be aware of when buying clothes that come with a history. The size for example will not always translate to the modern sizing system and how you wash your garment may be a little more specific than simply throwing it in the washing machine and hoping it doesn’t shrink. I will talk about these issues and more in my next post and I hope by the end you will feel not only confident, but eager to find a little piece of wearable history of your own.
Written by Hannah Mays Chandler for Dressedinhistory.com. Please do not cite this work without the explicit permission of Dressed in History.
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