Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Why I Dress Like An Explosion In A Charity Shop

First off, apologies for the lack of posts recently. It's the two most hectic weeks of the year for my day job. No time for blogging, all energies must be reserved for paperwork and fine toothed combing of the paperwork of others.

I have been distant.

I have been reading blogs however, especially some interesting ones about 'why I dress this way' (or 'why wear vintage?') from some fab bloggers:
Retro Chick
Suzie Q for Retro Chick
Tuppence Ha'penny
Vintage Secret

So, I thought I would ease back into my blogging regime by going on about my favourite subject: me. (My mother, who has recently started reading this blog, will no doubt have read that last sentence in the Zippy From Rainbow voice she reserves for when I am explaining oh-so-reasonably why I should get first dibs on anything going... ).

What I imagine I look like.
"Contents may differ from those advertised."

I suppose I should start by explaining that in my case, the question isn't so much 'why do you wear vintage?' as 'why do you dress like an explosion in a charity shop?'. Yes, I do collect, own and wear 'proper' vintage, but I also have an active interest in current fashions - especially indie and street styles. I've always been clearly identifiable as someone with a different style to the norm, and a retro edge to a greater or lesser extent however I have always been pretty eclectic to the extent that I might even look like a modern 'rock chick' in vintage items, or look very vintage in 100% modern clothes.

So why do I wear my style?

The first reason is simply aesthetic. I've always been interested in theatre and design, culture and history. The way things look have impacted on my clothing choices, be it in terms of colour, shape or style. I enjoy bright and over the top designs- kawaii, psychedelic, rock-n-roll and even Gothic revival to name but a few. Unfortunately I can't actually draw or make anything of worth that isn't edible - this was evident even in my childhood when my twin sister would use the oven to fire Fimo models of cakes*, and I would use it to make actual cakes - so I use clothes and make up instead. And I like sequins.


Additionally, we do have the twin thing. Some twins want to dress the same, some really, really don't. Sis and I fall into the second category and from the age of six were of the opinion that matching anyone else was the height of moosylon**. My sister went with guitars, band-t-shirts and eyeliner as a teen, so I went with disco, brightly coloured shoes and glitter nailpolish. Naturally.

In terms of preferred eras, I slightly fell into mine. I have always loved 60s-70s grass-roots aesthetics (be it Swinging London, Mods or plain old kitsch suburban lifestyle), so the clothes appealed. I've also got a penchant for disco and retro pop. Oh, and did I mention the liking sequins? When I was a teenager in the 1990s, 60s and 70s 'retro' was trendy (in the same way, I suppose, as 80s-90s is now) and could be picked up very reasonably from jumble sales, charity shops and even Camden Market. Imagine Camden being very reasonable nowadays!

Can you believe I got hassle from 50s
fans for this dress at 'Vintage 2011'?

I did try for the currently fashionable mid-century 'pin up' look. And felt... well, like many vintage folk seem to feel in mainstream. It just wasn't 'me'. Lots of people look amazing in it, and enjoy it, but I just wasn't feeling it myself. Unless it's rockabillied or kitsched up enough to turn me right back into an indie-n-rock-girl - which is, to my mind, something else. Certainly not classic or cupcake mid century. Fail.  So I went back to 'bad' vintage (and yes, I've heard of 70s, crimp and Peter Pan collars being described as 'bad' vintage on t'interweb several times) and indie/kitsch. Bad vintage girl that I am.

I only do cupcake prom dresses
in leopard print, innit.

I also enjoy modern fashion- albeit with sequins, of course- and for many years I happily mixed vintage, second hand and high street. Being a bit older and more grown up now, I yearn for better quality and longer lasting items. This has led to an increase in the plain old second hand shopping- as distinct from hunting for underpriced retro- for two reasons. The first is obviously, if I go to a charity shop in an affluent area I can pick up high-quality modern items- to be mixed with my retro wardrobe- for less than their retail value; the second is that by saving on various items by sourcing them cheaply, I can save up for the Selfridges sale and treat myself to something designer.

N.B. Comfort rule does not apply to shoes.

My final reason is that I like to feel comfortable in my clothes. I'm not one for fantasy narratives about how people dressed in the past (e.g. of course, women never wore 'trousers' in the 1950s... but they did wear 'slacks'). So many of these cupcake-vintage-snob-stereotypes just don't stand up to historical scrutiny, but more importantly, they impose rules which impinge upon my enjoyment and choice. I find some vintage forums bizarrely frustrating; full of people saying they wear vintage because there are fewer rules than modern fashion, then imposing a draconian set of rules themselves. No thanks! I am happy to mix-and-match to create a more eclectic style. Not an 'entry level' style, not someone who is afraid to go purist, but someone who likes the eclectic, combined look. It just works for me.

*About 20 years ahead of the crafting trend for mini-food. Well done sis!
**Twin language: informal abstract noun/adjective, the condition of being gawkish, poorly co-ordinated and ill dressed. e.g. 'He has NHS beakers [glasses] with sellotape and he just fell off his sister's Princess bike, that's so moosylon, innit.'


  1. I like your style!

    Whoever hassled you at Vintage 2011 needs a visit from the Manners Police.

  2. Your style is way more daring than what I would term "vintage mainstream" (which I more or less fit into, albeit with more modern charity shop clobber and less vintage repro!)

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

  3. Everyone should dress just how they like, and you do it with aplomb. Also "cupcake-vintage-snob-stereotypes" hahahaha!

  4. What hideous hassle did you get at vintage? I was there, indoors the whole weekend painting portraits, you may have seen me. I'm definitely not interested in the cliquey vintage set, I have my own clique of mental bloggers instead

  5. Nice! you echo a lot of my sentiments exactly x

  6. Great post. I too like to mix things up a bit and whilst I will often sport a vintage look from head to toe I don't impose rules on myself. Why did you get hassle over that dress? you look fab!

  7. Good for you, keep on dressing for yourself and 'beep' to anyone who hassles you about it, I thought that was the point in being able to choose our clothes anyway, it's our/your own choice! X

  8. Your twin sister sounds like me - that's how I dressed as a teen, and somewhere at my parents I still have the fimo dolls' house food I made prolifically a few years before I became too cool for the dolls' house!

    Buy yeah - agree with all your post. Really don't understand why someone would feel the need to pass negative comment on what anyone chooses to wear though (ok, I do - but y'know Oscars dresses doesn't count), how bloody rude! Hope you told them to fuck right off!

  9. this made for interesting reading. I suggest anyone uttering the words bad vintage deserves a slap; who on earth has the right to judge??!!!

  10. Well said. I couldn't give a toss what people think of my outfit choices, as long as I'm happy then so what?
    Whoever said anything mean about you was obviously a stupid insecure creature who wasn't happy in their own skin. x

  11. I say dress the way you like. I love and wear vintage, but often with modernised items as well and generally don't care too much of what others say. Someone really hassled you about that dress? Outrageous! Good post! xx

  12. How did I miss this post? You look fantastic in leopard frock amor. Yeah, Fuck them! who cares wear what you want it's your hot body and you do what you want!

  13. I'm a mixer, sometimes I do like to sport a form 40s look or a 50s one but I also like to mix it up and I like having that choice! I think I'm getting more rockabilly as time goes on and I look at girls with a sleeve of tatoos and think 'ooooooo' but I'm not sure I'm brave enough. I think it's a hot look though. May be I'll go for it when I retire!

    I remember reading your post about someone being mean to you last year. *sigh* some people eh!


Let me know what you think!