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The Glory of Good Vintage Shops and Vintage Clothing

Kate Hepburn-- the greatest
Kate Hepburn-- the greatest

Updated May 02nd, 2020

This one time I was in a vintage shop, I found myself in deep conversation with the owner. He felt very passionately about the new uprising in vintage stores and vintage clothing and how a lot of those open were touting wares form the early 90's.

I couldn't blame him, which was how we got into a conversation about it in the first place.

We remembered the 90s. 

Also, on which God from which culture's green earth would fanny packs and shellsuits ever come back into fashion?

(Did that mean that Wonderwall was their "The Weight"?) But even aside from the fact that our mortalities were being called into question with the passing of time, how could an Adidas shirt be considered vintage enough to be in a vintage shop?

He had every right to be miffed. Moreso than I did. His business was going out of business due to high street stores replicating the grunge un-style of the 90's and one of the best vintage shops in London, was, therefore, going to close.

It did, too, at the beginning of 2016.

Can I Look Like the Guys on Mad Men?

Mad Men was a cultural phenomenon.

Costume designer Janie Bryant—who'd previously worked on the brilliant costumes in Deadwood—recreated the style and substance of the sixties with original clothing designs and vintage shopping.

What a job, right?

As most cultural phenomena do, Mad Men sparked this resurgence of fashion. The show even did an episode on whether every woman was a Marilyn or a Jackie. Pretty sexist, but it hasn't gotten much easier fifty years on, either.

Men in suits are everything. Pocket squares and tailoring goes a long way, and it was nice to see a hint of Bogie on the morning commute as opposed to a pink shirt and ill-fitting pants.

Mad Men being on television really influenced more and more vintage shops to open. There was a market there. And online, most of the stuff from the 80's is considered vintage, and therefore, the real vintage ones go out of business.

A Vintage 30th Birthday

There's this bar in London called Cahoots. It's based in an old underground station in the middle of everything, but also off the beaten track. I wanted to go there for my birthday.

I was in my vintage phase. I learned how to do pin curls and rag curls and filled my brows in until I looked like a statue. I wore pants like Kate Hepburn and blazers like Marlene Dietrich, and I loved the shopping part of the process enough to start planning months in advance.

I wound up going to a salon that specialized in vintage hair and makeup.

They did my makeup and hair like the movie stars and I wore a blazer and blouse from the 40s because wartime belle was my aesthetic at the time, and unlike my usual androgynous attire, the vintage stuff—of the right size—showed off my curves.

I almost went home as part of an Andrews Sisters-style music group because of it.

The Real War Effort

During the second world war, money was scarcely existent. Most women had one outfit to get them through, especially those who didn't have a lot of money, to begin with, like my relatives.

t's a difficult concept to grasp, even as someone who saw their grandparents ration books directly.

Compared to now, in a nation and a world in excess, what they owned lasted half of their lives.

I guess that's why vintage clothing is so durable. It had to be.

The women still made an effort to look good, and for themselves. Pin curls take a lot of work. These days we have products and hair dryers and, if we're lucky enough not to live in an area prone to drought, an endless supply of sometimes hot water. We could learn something from them.

What is Vintage?

How long will it be until the aforementioned unbrushed hair and skinny jeans style are considered vintage?

How about the spaghetti tops that were worn in the early part of the decade? If butterfly clips can make a comeback, surely anything can?

Will plaid and branded sportswear vendors be put out of business?

More importantly, will there ever be anything put into place about what constitutes as vintage?

I'm interested to see where the art of vintage shopping heads in a couple of years. I mean, twenty years into the span of the new millennium already, pretty soon it'll be 100 years since rations and repairable clothing.

Think about that next time you step into whatever it is that's calling itself a vintage shop.


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