1. How It was Made
Vintage clothing was made in a variety of ways, most of them being preferable to some of the common modern methods. Today the garment industry is stained with bad working conditions and falling attention to quality leading to waste and over consumption.
A large part of vintage clothing surviving today was made at home. My father remembers going to the department store with my grandmother and great grandmother. Half of the store had ready made dresses and the other half had dress fabric. You could also purchase sewing patterns by mail order catalog or at the store.
Clothing was made in factories, but not overseas until about the 60s, and still, a lot of garments, accessories and household goods were made here in the U.S.A.
Vintage could also be a high end gown hand sewn in Paris. What ever it is, chances are that it was made in better conditions than we see today. If you want to be sure, check the label. Its easy to tell if something was made at home, or sewn by hand. If it was commercially produced, research the label tag and manufacturing company.
2. Better Quality
Clothing was made differently. Today, items need to be simple, cheap and easy to make in a factory line. This usually excludes things like linings, bound buttons, pretty buttons, nice fabrics, complicated seams or pockets. When you look at a vintage sewing pattern or sewing book, the techniques are complicatedly couture compared to the watered down simpler versions of clothing on the rack today.
Its also stronger, more washable (depending on the age) and durable. If you’ve ever owned a vintage pair of jeans you know what I mean.
3. Unique is the New Chic
Just like the July Cover of Vogue affirms, “Unique is the New Chic”. Everyone is searching for that item that no one else has. The one of a kind, the couture. Avoid showing up to the party wearing the same dress. Shopping vintage is one way to insure your uniqueness.
4. Trend Setting Inspiration
Pierre Cardin left and Alexander McQueen Right.
A lot of designers look to vintage clothing, movies, actresses and books for their inspiration when designing a new collection. I live in NYC and have run into a famous designer at the Manhattan Vintage Convention. My husband also works in fashion and the amount of vintage books and magazines in designer’s collections can be limitless. Wear something vintage out on the town and inspire the next editorial spread.
5. Vintage Purchases & Charity
A lot of shops that sell vintage are either part of a charity organization or donate portions of their proceeds to a charity. Flea markets and farmer’s markets help out local communities and support artists.
6. Good for the Environment… Reduce Re-use Recycle!
Not only does buying vintage prevent waste and keeps it out of the landfills, it also has a zero impact on the environment from production. Anything that is made toady requires new resources, electricity, waste and can even reach as far as water supplies and endangered habitats. This is directly a growing concern when shopping for furniture or anything made with wood, textiles, dyes and chemicals.
Its recycling at its best.
Along with buying vintage, there are also designers who “upcycle”. They take a vintage or used garment that is either damaged, unwearable or just unwanted an they turn it into something new.
The above right is a vintage 1920s damaged dress piece. The crystal beads were too beautiful to throw away. Rather than making more trash and buying new beads, I removed and cleaned them and used them on my wedding dress.
7. Its Less Expensive
Models in dresses by Charles James Dresses – Vogue, June 1948 – Photograph by Cecil Beaton
If you want a dress with amazing details and hand sewn work, beading, crystals and couture finishes, its going to be very expensive. So much time and work has to be put into these types of pieces. Very often, the cost of supplies alone can exceed what an item should cost on the retail market. Vintage pieces are commonly better priced, better made and better quality.
8. Preserving History
Save quickly vanishing things from a time slipping away, give them a safe home. Im always sad to think of how many rare or one of a kind pieces are lost, broken or thrown away because they are not appreciated. Shopping vintage is a way of preserving things that were once loved. It gives them a second life for new generations to discover.
Christian Dior, 1949
Jacques Fath Detail – Photo by Irving Penn, Paris, 1950
Dovima and Betsy Pickering wearing Lanvin-Castillo – Photo by Richard Avedon, Paris, August 1958
With designers continually referencing vintage looks, and trends recycling from movies and popular culture, vintage is timeless and will never go out of style.
10. Support Local & Small Businesses
Vintage shops, up-cycled designs and small local designers have a low impact on the environment. They support the community, are made with better quality and integrity and offer a unique choice.