Aug 20, 201410:52 AMAn Element of Style
As many of you already know, I am a strong promoter of vintage fashion and the vintage lifestyle. Over the years, it’s been easy for me to recognize the deeper aspects of wearing clothing from different decades in the quality, construction and individuality of these items. However, a far more recent personal discovery in the world of vintage is how it relates to the contemporary wearer on a level of intimate spirituality.
It can be all too easy to view a vintage store from a purely retail-minded perspective. Your eyes scan over the conglomeration of items, and perhaps you reminisce of an era past in a vague and general manner. Do not forget that these antiquated items not only belonged in a different time period, but they also belonged to different people. These human beings lived and laughed and cried in these garments. As time passes, the original owners of vintage garments are becoming extinct. They have died and passed from this world, a fate that is inevitable to us all. For those of us who wear vintage, we are wearing the clothes of dead men and women. Is that creepy and morbid? Maybe. But I choose to view this fact as a way that we demonstrate honor and respect those who lived before our time.
Every piece of vintage has a story to tell. My aunt gave me an original 1920s black beaded flapper dress that she had rescued from an old house during her teen years. It’s a beautiful semi-sheer cocktail dress with a lot of general historic meaning. In ten years, it will be at least a century old. But this dress also belonged to a woman. Someone purchased this dress brand-new from a store almost one hundred years ago. She wore it over an array of undergarments; undergarments that are a far cry from the barely-there bra and panties sets that we typically sport today. She curled her hair and painted her face and probably elegantly smoked a cigarette in the process. That dress has danced the Charleston and almost certainly illegally downed a glass of precious prohibited alcohol. Whether the dress’s original owner loved and cherished it or chose to wear it one or two times and hung it in the back of her closet, this dress has seen times which we can never have the pleasure of experiencing. Only the improbable and questionable concept of time travel can perhaps one day expose us to the visions and past splendors that have come the way of this article of clothing.
Our elders are the closest outlet we have to witnessing the authenticity of the vintage lifestyle. Although it may stereotypically seem rather “uncool” to hang out with a bunch of “old people”, I cannot thoroughly stress enough the magnitude of importance in becoming acquainted with these patron saints of vintage. If you’re in love with the 1940s pinup era, then get to know a World War II veteran for whom such famed cheesecake paintings and photographs were originally intended. If you crave the bohemian freedom of the 1970s, then make friends with an elderly flower child who actually had the opportunity to attend Woodstock and purchased a Janis Joplin album when it was brand spankin’ new in the record store.
Although clothes can tell a story, they actually can’t literally talk to us and tell us about their past. The piece of history tied to an article of clothing or jewelry can only be guesstimated and fabricated with the creativity and nostalgic longing of our own minds. Those who came before us and are still living are the true gems of vintage, not the garments in and of themselves.
Take a moment out of your busy life and spend an afternoon with an elderly friend or relative. Even if the experience seems boring at the moment, it will be something that you will never forget. Ask this person what it was like to grow up in a different decade and century. Ask them how it felt to wear a silken evening gown, a stiff net petticoat or an embroidered ethnic vest. We do not live forever. Every person’s life has a time limit, and every hourglass reaches its last drop of sand.