Sunday, July 5, 2015
"Real" Vintage vs. Sewing Your Own
I have written a bit about this in the past, but I don't own very much vintage clothing. I don't have a single "real" 1950's dress, a "genuine" 40's winter coat, a #vintage cocktail dress. As I have previously discussed, vintage is hard to find, usually comes in smaller sizes, can be too worn out to wear, and even when the magic boxes of size/quality/accessibility are all ticked, things can be quite expensive. So what's a vintage loving girl to do?
In my case, sew everything myself. Some people go the repro route, as there are so many awesome companies out there now making great vintage style clothing. Good retro shaped basics and vintage inspired dresses can even be bought at most big clothing retailers and brands these days. One simply does not need to own any real vintage clothing to dress in a vintage style.
But I do think there is some snobbery attached to "real" vintage, as if people who dress in vintage style but don't wear actual vintage clothes are sometime not "real" vintage style lovers. The wholly authentic vintage life thing is cool, I get it, old stuff is awesome, I quite agree. It's the subtle shaming I have seen sometimes on the net which I don't like.
I definitely don't hold real vintage as somehow being above repro or home sewn vintage style clothes, and I can't really understand why it seems some people do. Are genuine vintage pieces awesome, yes, are you somehow better because your wardrobe is real vintage, no. It there something a bit inherently magical about finding a great vintage piece in your size for $5 dollars, yes. Are you allowed to share that excitement, sure. Does this often rare and magical moment make your wardrobe more "authentic" and #justplainbetter than anyone else's...again no.
I decided to google the phenomenon and discovered a few other bloggers have touched on this very topic:
"In general I've found the vintage community incredibly accepting, broad-minded and lovely, but I have encountered this vintage snobbery before (thankfully only in passing, not directed at me). The vintage snob turns up her nose at vintage repro brands, or declares offhand that anything after 1950s "isn't vintage". She considers that only designer name vintage is worth owning, and might label you a fraud if your look isn't completely period-accurate."
-Tuppence Ha'penny, 2012
"The Vintage Snob has come to believe their own hype, that the wearing of vintage clothing bestows an automatic veneer of creativity and difference. Yes, you are unlikely to bump into someone in the same frock if you buy vintage, however, the increasing availability of high quality vintage at (sometimes very) high quality prices means that a person with a good disposable income can buy themselves a little piece of that look without having to put in a great deal of effort. The dealer did it all for you. You didn’t dig that 50s day dress out of a pile of dirty sheets, lovingly restore it to it’s former glory and tailor it to fit you like a glove. You bought it off a mannequin, for £200, just like on the High Street."
-Retro Chick, 2010
Thankfully I don't come across vintage snobbery often, I think it's a pretty rare phenomenon (thank goodness, beacause it's silly). What I think is funniest about vintage snobbery is thinking that home-sewn vintage inspired clothes are less than, because they are simply 50 years younger than a "real" vintage item. Especially when so many people use actual vintage patterns from the decade they are reproducing clothing from!
Sewing used to be so much more common than it is now, and even most of the people who do still sew these days- don't sew clothing. The reason Joann's is the last big chain standing in the fabric market (in the US) is because it caters to quilters more than any other portion of the home sewing market. The ladies of the past made their feed-sack dresses at home, tailored their husband's old suits down to fit them when everything was rationed, and ordered fabrics, not just clothing from mail order catalogs .
And suddenly I sound like a vintage sewing snob...that was easy! Seriously though, sewing your own "vintage" means you can tailor it to fit your own measurements, choose whatever fabric you like, re-create your favorite styles and have them hanging in your closet without having to search the vintage racks for years to find them. Since whatever you sew is brand new, you never have to worry about busing an old seam, or moth holes, or missing buttons.
Then again not everyone can sew, wants to sew, or has the means to sew their way to a vintage style wardrobe. I totally get that too. That's why repro is awesome! I also think finding a pretty vintage appropriate blouse in the stuffed overflowing racks of Forever 21 is just as much of a scavenger hunt accomplishment as finding a vintage blouse in a pile of grandma's favorite Christmas sweaters at the local thrift store. No one way of achieving a vintage style look is inherently better than another.
I am certainly very biased, being a seamstress myself I naturally find it much easier to create my own vintage style clothing rather than go through the rigor of finding real vintage out in the wild. Now reaching the end of this post I'm not exactly sure what argument I am really trying to make. If I had to boil it down it would be this: Don't let anyone tell you your vintage style isn't good enough because not everything you wear is actually 40+ years old! This hobby, often passion, is for everyone, at every level of dedication and of the market. Have fun and don't worry about being totally "authentic". Being the most authentic version of yourself is so much more important, and feeling great will always be better than worrying about whether your dress has a union label sewn inside or not.