Friday, June 17, 2005

Vintage - "Glamourisation" of old clothes?

Mention the word "vintage" and I get a lot of different reactions from everyone.

Some, like my ever-practical Boyfriend, will scrunch up his face and go,"Eeee, why are you spending so much money on old clothes..possibly dead people's clothes?" My more tactful colleagues will shake their head in bewilderment. (Forgive them, they are engineers and know not what they say/think.)The only form of mutual appreciation I'll ever get when it comes to vintage are only from posters on The Fashion Spot. Which leads me to declare that the majority of Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot - the thought of paying money for old and possibly worn clothes, just does not compute to them.

Vintage, is really so much more than a euphemism for old clothes. Any type of clothing that is a decade old can be classified as "vintage". This means that clothes produced from Victorian times all the way to the 80s' can be classified as vintage. I feel that the older a vintage piece is, the harder it is to incorporate into my daily wardrobe without coming across as too "costumey". Also, it is harder to find good-quality stock for the older pieces, such as those from the Edwardian period. Taking care of them too needs a lot more care and attention mainly due to their age, and also because pieces from that period tend to be made of more delicate material like lace.

Doing vintage well is really a taste of your sense of style and restraint. Pairing a pair of sevens with a 70s' victorian-style hippie blouse is the easiest example of vintage-chic. Wearing a 80s' off-shoulder blouse with skinny jeans and leg-warmers just means that you missed the audition for "Flashdance" by a really loooong time.

My love affair with vintage started when my mother found some of my grandmother's stuff while she was doing house-cleaning one day. My grandmother was a very fashionable lady and she owed some of the most beautiful and needless to say, vintage stuff. I had inherited a lot of stuff from her when I was younger, there were tons of beaded necklaces (which are so popular now!), clipped earrings, brooches, vintage Lancome compacts and even an antique watch. Sadly, I didn't realise the beauty of these items before and now a lot of them are gone. The only saving grace I guess is that the most valuable items still remains, such as the vintage Peranakan silver custom-made belt which my mother found. Peranakans are a race of Straits-born Chinese and they are unique in the sense that their culture and tradition incorporates elements of the Chinese and Malay cultures. The belt that my mother found had a phoenix motif as its buckle and the entire belt was custom-made and hand-crafted in Malacca, Malaysia. It was easily 50 years old. Wearing the belt gave me a sense of connection, not just to my culture, but also to my grandma. The fashionable factor, in this case, ceased to become important.

That is what I love about vintage - every piece has its own history and is unique. How each piece is carried off really depends on the wearer's individuality and no two pieces are exactly alike. Wearing vintage transports you to a time where things were more idealised, pre-911 everything was just more carefree and optimistic then.

I started with accessories to ease myself into vintage. There were the requisite beaded necklaces and chunky bangles, besides the truly breath-taking finds in my grandmother's closet. Bags and sunglasses, especially the big Jackie-O ones are also good starters for introuducing vintage pieces into your wardrobe. I love clothes from the 50s-70s the best as these pieces are the easiest to work with my wardrobe without looking too weird.

I usually get my clothes from eBay - I don't believe in visiting vintage stores where the clothes get unnecessarily marked-up to pay for the rental. Thus far, I have scored a few dresses and tons of accessories. Horror stories do exist about flea-infested vintage stuff on eBay, but as always when it comes to eBay, only buy from reputable sellers and use a healthy does of common sense in everything you bid for - do NOT get carried away! One seller which I highly recommend is mamastonevintage, I get a lot of my eBay stuff from her:

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From left: vintage wooden bangles from the 60s; victorian-inspired blouse from the 70s'; calico dress from the 70s; pictures courtesy of mamastonevintage ebay auctions.

The Olsen twins I think, do vintage very well:

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The Olsens in their vintage looks.

I have been in love since I saw Mary-Kate Olsen in this white dress for Chanel's introspective at the MET in New York. She got her dress from the famous New York-based vintage store, What Comes Around Goes Around.

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The Olsen twins at the MET Costume Gala, NYC, May 2005; pictures from

You might also like to check out other vintage websites like Enokiworld and Adorevintage, for more inspirations.

If you are leery about wearing vintage however, vintage-inspired designs is the next best bet. I highly recomment visiting my favourite online website, blaec, for the season's best vintage-inspired finds.

Vintage is a homage to one's individual style and the revival of eternal classics. As the saying goes, "Greatness never truly goes out of style."

I couldn't agree more.


Cayce said...

what a great post! I too love vintage, and for the same reasons you listed.

p/s you are slowly turning me on to the appeal of online shopping. :)

PrincessImp said...

Hahaha..I hope that's not in a bad way and great things should be shared ;)

Anonymous said...

Coming into vintagey stuff(infected by a friend:) Not into ebay much so just got some stuff at at Oppt Shop and Dustbunny:) and I do love it:) Getting a 60s dress altered but still wondering how to carry it off without looking too OTT:)