Sunday, 22 May 2011

Labels go inside clothing...

...Not on people.

To be honest, I blame blogs. Or rather the 'anonymous' comments I sometimes see, and the blogs I stumble over by hitting 'next blog' at the top of the blogspot page then scuttle away from (note to self: for nice and/or sane blogs, use fellow bloggers' follow-lists, never 'Blogspot next blog').

80s t-shirt. Channel the rage...

I'm talking about how, since mid-last-year, I clock someone wearing vintage, designer or alternative and immediately introduce myself with '...I'm mixed style with an interest in thrifting.' Why? Well, in case they think I'm a part-timer, a charlatan or an inexperienced newbie trying to pass myself off as...

...what exactly? A member of some club or secret society? I dunno. The rules don't seem to be written down anywhere and even the literal poster-girl of vintage, Fleur of Diary Of A Vintage Girl, got nasty, spiteful comments from cowardly, anonymous self-proclaimed guardians of 'proper' vintage. Now, I'm using vintage as an example here- I've experienced almost exactly the same with various 'scenes' (indie, alt, hipster etc')- it's just t'interweb seems to have really fuelled it. And another disclaimer: none of you lovely folk who tweet, follow etc' do this so I'm preaching to the choir really, but I just need to vent.

I love clothing. I love it for the look, for the quality, for associations with places, music and a period in history. This incorporates vintage (or 'retro' as my 60s/70s stuff was known in the 90s, before it got trendy), vintage-repro, modern-looking and alt all mushed up together. I think it works. Snog Marry Avoid (my most hated TV show) might disagree, but eff em, I've got the first two nailed and people who 'avoid' me usually do so cuz I've fixed them with my Paddington-Bear-Hard-Stare.

I also know (for an ameteur) my clothing pretty well- part of my MA involved costume, I've read up on 20th century dress and first started rummaging for vintage over 15 years ago in smelly flea markets (no charmingly shabby-chic vintage boutiques then) going to the library and reading these paper things with pages to research ages and care. Which brings me onto my first real bugbear that I just have to get off my chest:

1) Not a purist? Must be new to it, inexpert and frightened.
I've seen the whole 'Newbie, mixed/repro, purist' thing many times online: and once in a magazine- classic 'buy more to make yourself feel cleverer'. It just isn't true. There are all sorts of factors involved: I have a certain style which leans towards the 60s and 70s, with elements of modern urban and rock/indie. And North London princess. That's my style, I'm not frightened of any of it, but I cross-shop to get my style. There are all sorts of reasons- style, size, practicality or otherwise- why other fantastically stylish people don't follow the above chronology either. It's enormously patronising and seems to exist soley to create some kind of pecking order and/or get people to buy more.

2) How dare vintage be in fashion! All sorts of teenage mainstreamers are wearing prom dresses!
There are some irritating side-effects to vintage style being in fashion, which I had not fully noticed before the whole 70s thing got its turn. Mainly mislabelling on Ebay (but let's face it, there have always been dodgy shops on Ebay), very tatty and cheap repro that disappoints (but really I should check the seams etc', c'mon- we all know how to shop) and turning up to a party in the same dress. There are also advantages: quality boutiques everywhere, far less off comments from conventional types, you can find shoes/handbags that 'go' on the high streets and mucho repro... from handmade to Matalan. I don't remember all that back in the day, I remember rummage-bins at the back of Magdeline St Oxfam and spending more on laundry powder to get the smell out than the clothes themselves.

It's when it leaks over into 'how daare they wear something from Matalan that looks a bit like something we wear, they're not one of us!' that it all gets a bit silly. Reminds me of my student days, when I toddled off to buy my vintage offa Camden Market and saw all the metal kids - hey, I was one too in my day- who showed they were truly unique and against those cliquey b*tches by - erm, wearing the same labels and forming rally tight cliques-within-cliques. And becoming enraged if anyone else wore black denim.

Leave teenagers to have a bit of fun with fashion- if you don't like high street repro, don't buy it! How many of us did 80s-does-50s, 90s-does-Mod-revival back in the day? When people get irate about the 'wrong kind of person' buying vintage it makes me wonder, do they love the clothes (which, to me is the main thing), or love the exclusivity or dare I say it... cliquey side? In which case, the issue is not with others wearing that but with something deeper within them, perhaps.

My motivation for thrifting and much of my vintage buying is ethical (the same reason I adore modern fashion from Ebay and charity shops), for cut (shortarse with small waist = old stuff fits!), to save money on designer items and, yes, so I won't be wearing the same as another person. Or at least, not exactly the same. But princess or not, I don't require anyone to submit a CV and references to wear similar to me if they want. But then again, I'm not 'proper' or purist, so meh.

3) All people who don't wear vintage/alt are bland, chavvy or whatever...
I was going to blandly say 'two wrongs don't make a right' but instead I'm going to be a bit firmer: unless everyone, everyone the commenter knows and likes is non mainstream they should be more specific or they're insulting their mum/sister/friend etc'. If they mean 'those teenagers that laughed at me are...' then say so. Don't generalise. Because yeah, bored, daft teenagers might giggle at oddbod dressers like me, but that's them being an annoying teenager- moreover often the kind of teenager who has nothing better to do than sit at a bus-stop (quite a sad state for them really) not the way they dress. [NB. additionally, I must say that not all teenagers are silly/annoying. People of all ages are just people: most are decent folk]. Yeah ignorant people might wear sportswear - but how many pleasant busy people do also? Just don't stereotype. At the end of the day that scruff in Sainsburys might be wearing flats, comfy trackies and hair in a messy ponytail because she's a nurse come off a 14 hour night shift. Just remember many nasty anonymous comments were probably typed by someone very well dressed indeed; does that make the rest of us snobs? Of course not.

I remember thinking 'mainstream fashion is for idiots, so anyone wearing it is one' back in the day. A kind of natural 'revenge' in my mind for the mean kids at school. But - maybe because I mix up my style, I've heard comments about people wearing things I owned (minding their own business, not sneering or even noticing the alt folk outside the rock pub) and it upset me. I'd comment that I owned that skirt - it would all get a bit quiet and awkward. But the comments stopped. meh. Just venting.

Glad I got that all off my chest. Comment away, agree, disagree, whatever. :)


  1. I would love to wear more vintage stuff because I love the look, really LOVE it. But if I waver for a moment in self-confidence, I know that I don't look the way I would like to look in the clothing.

    I know, I should lay off the biscuits lol!

    I'm all for everyone being able to wear what they like, as long as it doesn't offend public decency :-D


    Ali x

  2. I'm reading and nodding my head like a bubble head!
    I agree with almost all of your points of view. I shop at thrift store as well because that is the only way I can afford and are able to find some of the designers that I love and the style of clothing that I also love.
    I'm not a vintage purist either I just like to look good while paying as little as possible.

  3. Well said! It's all getting a bit much isn't it? I think people should have their own style and wear whatever they like. Hope you've had a good weekend xx

  4. Well said - I'm by no means a purist, heck I don't even wear vintage every day! The bad listings on ebay annoy me, but I suppose 'caveat emptor' is the name of the game there. What people wear is up to them, really.

  5. I think all fashion bitching should stop. It is just clothes ffs! Peronsally, I don't have any problem with the usual things held up as sins against the fashion gods, like ugg boots, tracksuits, sportswear etc. I have an OPINION on what looks nice, like I do on any form of artwork. But there should be no judgment. People can wear what they like. xx

  6. Much as I would like to wear some vintage every day, in reality I don't, as rightly or wrongly I still save it 'for best'. I get very attached to my clothes and don't want them ruined at the hands of my offspring. Also, I simply don't have enough vintage - and besides am too fickle in my tastes. I admire people who can rock say a 30s look at all times - but some days I'll have just watched 'Point Break' (as a random example) or listened to Hole, and a tea dress won't fit with my mood.

    I also like the fact that photos of me will exist where my children can laugh in 30 years time "Mum, you look so twenty-teens!" (or whatever we're calling the decade then). I adore the family wedding photos I have from generations back - it wouldn't be as much fun if they were all wearing vintage at the time. I fully expect my wedding dress to be hilarious in 20 years time, and beautiful again in 50.

    But I agree, wear what the hell you like. The opinions of teens only bothered me when I was one! I do get mildly irritated with the assumption that I should also be into 'vintage' music and burlesque though. When did wanting to watch women in basques become mandatory? I mean, I've nothing against either, but victory rolls do not automatically a good singer make. (Vintage Life magazine, I'm looking at you...)

  7. Very well said.

    I've never been part of a clique. I don't think I fit into any particular genre or style or whatever: I'm just me. And it annoys me probably more than it should when I wear something and people assign a label to it. It's just something I felt like chucking on that day - there is no deeper meaning!

    I read Fleur's blog and I was a bit baffled by all the hate she was getting. To my mind, she probably lives the vintage life more than anyone else I've seen. Yes, she's very truthful about the fact she's a modern woman and doesn't live in cloud cuckoo land imagining she actually is in the 1940s, but she dresses in beautiful vintage style and has lots of period interests and so on - if she's not doing it properly then what on earth do the purists want? Unless you have an unlimited budget and very good connections, it's pretty bloody difficult to dress top to toe every day in vintage clothing that dates from much further back than the 60's or 70's.

    Sweeping generalisation ahoy - I think fashion bloggers are just as guilty of labelling and judging as anyone else, they just like to pretend they're coming from a more informed perspective. There are tons of trends that bloggers seem to fawn over that I think people who aren't that much into clothes would look at and think "wtf?" Socks and sandals are no better or worse than Ugg boots. It's all a matter of opinion really. I just hope I'm not too much of a hypocrite.

  8. Thanks for all your brilliant comments. Glad I'm not alone in thinking it's the person inside the clothes that matters! :)

  9. Beautifully put, Perdita.
    I'd say that 95% of my wardrobe is vintage, I wear it every day whether I'm backpacking in India, camping at a festival, gardening or staying in. It's my style and it's how I've always dressed.
    I'm often baffled by fellow bloggers refering to "vintage types". Maybe that's a London thing, there's certainly no such elitist group here in the Midlands. I suppose I'm "alternative" if I have to be given a label, I don't shop on the high street, take package holidays, watch trashy tv, furnish my house in Ikea, work 9 to 5, read magazines or believe in marriage and children. The people I hang about with are the same. I've worked with people who do the conventional thing and although we can get on and respect one another we're often too different in our outlooks on life to form lifelong friendships.
    Like Lakota, I couldn't give a toss about Burlesque, tea dances, most black and white films and themed festivals. It's the clothes I like (and only 60's and 70's clothes at that).

  10. Hi there-a very insightful and well written post, I also echo some of the gorgeous Vixs sentiments in that I love particular eras, for me its 70s and 80s clothes-not seemed as 'proper vintage' by some, but its what I like. I also enjoy thrifting and will wear designer and vintage if its cheap enough and excellent quality, that is what the dealbreaker is for me. Have a great week ahead xx

  11. I like dressing in a 40's "style". Yep - style. Not everything from earring's to ankles - but things I find on the web, high street - but more often than not - charity shops, that I think make me look nice. Me - not anyone else. I love most of the music - apart from Vera Lynn (GASP!!) and I cannot bare burlesque (boom!boom!) - it just doesn't tick my boxes. I loathe the assumption that because I like to dress in a certain way - I simply MUST drool over tit tassels and feather plumes. Errr. Nope. I have nothing against it - I am just not interested.

    I have no issue with tracksuits per se (although I cannot look at a pink velour one without twitching) but I DO have issue with a general lack of care to appearance. Overall slobbishness I cannot abide. Sleepwear is not presentable in my eyes - and should not be worn in the street. Yes - I judge because I know that the locals in my area are NOT nurses who have had a killer shift. They are non workers who sit on the street corner all day. In their slippers. But I don't judge them because they are not "vintage". I judge them because they are loafing about, not working, nor volunteering, but dropping litter and being abusive.

  12. I do like burlesque.

    I can't get enough sequins, glitter and feathers - I think it's the attention to detail that appeals to me.

    When is Strictly Come Dancing coming back on? *withdrawal face*

    Ali x

  13. I think people should be allowed to wear whatever style of clothing they like. I enjoyed your rant and thank you for you comments on my blog too :-)

  14. the thing with style and clothing is that you should dress for you, not anybody else. if you do not feel comfortable, then take it off.


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