Buying vintage is great for the environment. But what is the difference between vintage and my cousin’s hand-me-downs? I want to believe that vintage is all about beautiful unique pieces of clothing. Special treasures found after spending hours digging through piles in Vinnies, that once found will be fitting attire for me to wear whilst chasing my dreams of working towards a better world.
Why is vintage suitable attire for world saving pursuits? Well it is a truth that it is always better to re-use than recycle, and certainly better than making from scratch. Why? Simple – it uses less resources, hence it’s easier on Mother Earth. Even if you are using ethical fabrics, and manufacturing using Fair Trade practices, at the end of the day, to reuse something that is already made is better. The reason many people buy vintage, however, is not for environmental reasons. Wearing vintage clothing has become a statement of style. What do we think when we hear that so and so is wearing ‘vintage’ at the Oscars?
The word vintage conjures up images of antiques and beautiful hand made pieces. We hear that someone is wearing vintage and we immediately assume that they know something we don’t about style. Yet search for ‘vintage clothing’ online – and you get what quite honestly can only be termed expensive garbage. Suddenly vintage seems a highly overused term. I remember when every now and then as a kid we would get bags full of friends or cousins hand-me-downs. It was exciting, because we felt like we were getting cool new stuff for free. However, now I can relate to my mum’s despair. Much of it was just last year's specials from Woollies. Clothes my mother, in her good taste, would have never let cross her doorstep in any other way. She was old school. Have one or two good quality pieces, look after them – and always look good. And to me – that is the difference between last year’s Supre specials and vintage. Quality.
What many people don’t realise, is that only a few decades ago, the idea of buying clothes from a chain store like Supre was unknown. Everyone made their own clothes. Mother’s made all of their children’s clothes. Not only women, but entire families, were judged on the quality of the clothes they wore. Women took great pride in their seamstress ability. They would research the latest fashions and take great care in choosing fabrics, patterns, and learning techniques to make beautiful clothing. To put this in perspective, my mother made all of her own ballet costumes – pre lycra days, satin with fitted boning and all. All of my mother’s friends made their own wedding dresses. When you are looking at a second hand evening dress from the 50’s and 60’s, you are more often than not looking at a one off, hand made couture piece. Far better quality than you could find in any store today.