That something could be a 1960′s Bill Blass satin animal print double-breasted suit with bolero jacket and pencil skirt originally priced in the thousands now a few hundred dollars. Perfect condition. Or a Thierry Mugler navy and white pinstripe suit surely the only one left in the world for less than $400. Flawless. Classic Roger Vivier gold, silver or tan pumps with signature buckle and 2-inch square heels a la Jackie O. Were they even worn? Is the Mae West satin bed gown really 100 years old? Who cares? Circa specifics fade like an old photograph when paired with a white ostrich shrug. Champagne and tapered candles anyone?
The plethora of perfect repurposed clothing is as boundless as a hunter gatherer’s urge to collect. From familiar designers to the obscure, classic, edgy or era, a simple brooch, gloves or head to toe from decades ago, it’s all there waiting to adorn you.
Some fur lovers are going green, choosing vintage fur for style and warmth sans support for today’s fur business. As if adopting a fur, giving a beloved wrap a new home closet. Original retail – $5,000 to $20,000 – now next to nothing. Any repairs – shortened, relined or pelt alterations – can most easily be done by hand or at your local furrier. A little homework goes a long way here. Know what you’re buying, know your fur, check edges and dryness.
Google women’s vintage clothing and more than 49 million sites pop up. Men’s – over 4 million. Sure, we all like shiny new things occasionally but if style splashed with value suits you, vintage clothing may be a best bet. The chance of someone showing up at the dance in the same dress are slim and none. For pennies.
Vintage clothing is defined as 20 years old or older. Antique clothing is defined as pre-1920′s. Consignment, previously owned or secondary market could be any garment previously purchased but not necessary worn.
Interest in vintage clothing soared in the 1990′s when top models and celebrities like Julia Roberts, Kate Moss and Dita Von Teese gave it a big boost. BUYING Vintage is also environmentally friendly. Some vintage lovers recognize clothing made in previous eras was designed to be worn for years so the construction was sturdier. Some older fabrics are too expensive to produce. Vintage is highly collectible, with detailing not often found in today’s garments. Vintage items are usually found at an extraordinary prices and if you want to be a patriot in your clothing choices, many vintage items carry the union label.
New Yorkers, of course, are famous fashion passionistas whether vintage, newer and new. The city, arguably the fashion capital world, tallies a $55 billion fashion industry employing 165,000 people which accounts for 5.5 percent of the city’s workforce and generates nearly $2 billion annually in tax revenues. That’s a lot of clothes.
Style.com, the online home of Vogue and W, was right in 2001 when it launched its first ever ad campaign “Runways are Everywhere.” Sidewalks, the office, lunch, in TV studios, at parties and productions, designers, buyers, marketers, writers all wearing, marketing, watching and talking. Together it all adds up to a clotheshorse dream – a secondary clothing market heavy with high turnover from informed people who appreciate design. Racks upon racks of second chance items are continuously replenished with fabulous suits, dresses, blouses in silks, beads, wool, buttons and bows – some with price tags never again to be met still attached.
Then along came Mad Men. In the last few years, Mad Men stylist Janie Bryant’s 60′s picks became big TV stars of the AMC hit show. Vintage style jumped into the lexicon and maybe your kid’s closet. The Gap, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Topman and others reproduced vintage for their lines. I’m sorry, dear merchants, but why pay retail? Hit your local thrift, flea market or estate sale if you can beat the estate dealers, set designers and vintage shop owners to the punch.
Conspicuous consumption in a consumer society has its benefits. Superior garments and textiles produced in the 80′s through the 40′s and earlier pepper most city maps. 402,000 web entries listed in Chicago, 12,000 in Dallas, millions listed in Denver, Los Angeles and Paris. Even with the internet effect, repetitive listings and mislabeled items, the numbers of available items is still astounding.
A New York institution is The Antiques Garage on 25th just east of 6th, open only and packed on weekends. Two levels of treasures, from textiles to clothing to jewelry to interiors for those who want to dress and live with a touch of bygone days. A frequent resource to movie sets, private designers and collectors, The Garage is better than a Starbucks for the vintage business. Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, a vintage bonanza, will be held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th the last weekend in April. Fabiola Beracasa from New York Magazine gets a peek at a previous show.
Buy, sell, save, wear and be merry.