Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Everyday Vintage?

 Do you wear vintage/repro/or vintage style clothes everyday? If so, I've got some questions for you!

I know that look. She's swept the same floor five times today.
I do have some actual vintage pieces that I wear, and I have some modern pieces that are vintage style, and I have clothes that I've made from vintage patterns. I love wearing all of these, but I'm finding some limitations that I'm hoping someone can help me with.

1. Laundry
Ugh! I hate the very word. Maybe it's because I'm a mom to three kids (5, 2, and 1), or maybe it's because we use cloth diapers (Now that's vintage!), so my laundry levels are constantly high. The problem is that some vintage items need more time and care than I care to give them. This has greatly limited my vintage wardrobe one way or another. I either don't wear actual vintage items very often or won't even buy them if I know they'll require special laundering and/or ironing. I forgot to mention I HATE ironing, that is I don't like to iron around small kids. Just seems like an accident waiting to happen. So, ironing happens when one or more kids is asleep. If you have small children, you will understand that means either late at night, early in the morning, or when somehow "nap time" works like it's supposed to work (and no, it doesn't always work, and even more rarely for all or even two at the same time).
If only I looked this good while ironing. *Sigh*

So, my question is: How do you get everything cleaned and ironed to wear vintage everyday?

2. Practicality
I guess this goes with laundry, but sometimes, well, I get messy just doing my job, and I don't wear or purchase certain things to keep from messing them up. I truly wish I could wear more vintage on a daily basis, but the mom in sweatpants look is too easy to fall into. And part of the reason I want to wear more vintage is because of how it makes me feel.
I did can some salsa a couple weeks ago!

 So, how do you wear vintage while cleaning your house, cooking, or feeding babies and changing diapers without the fear of forever blueberry stains or rips and tears?

3. Cost
Seriously. Maybe I'm looking in all the wrong places or am just so cheap and not used to spending much on clothing, but a lot of vintage is, in my opinion, WAY overpriced.

I am a stay at home mom and we homeschool, so our budget is adequate (big blessing), but usually tight. I have also been pregnant 5 times in the last five years (we lost two babies), so my size has *ahem* varied a bit, so I didn't want to invest a lot of money only to be unable to wear something again. I realize that we could make different choices and have more money to spend on more frivolous things, but these are the choices we've made and I really wouldn't want to change any of it.
And repro seems really expensive to me, too. I do love to sew, and most of my "vintage" wardrobe is from what I've sewn, but time for sewing is hard to find for me right now.

So, how can vintage be more affordable?

4. Availability

Yes, I do "need" this brooch!
I thank God for the internet! There is no way I would be able to find half the vintage clothes/accessories or sewing patterns I have found if not for access made possible by the internet. I live in rural east Tennessee in the United States, and let's just say the value of vintage clothing isn't always appreciated. I do occasionally as a result find really awesome things really cheap, but I also fear much vintage is simply thrown away. My own uncle "got rid" of all of my grandmother's clothing without asking anyone first, grrr.

The problem with relying so heavily on the internet is that you can't try things on first, can't really examine or feel them, and sometimes can't even return them. I have already found out the hard way that measurements for some people does not include using a standard inch or centimeter or any standardized measuring.
So, where have you found great vintage, and what dealers/shops/vendors are reliable?

I really do love vintage and wish I could be dolled up every day. My husband knows that he might come home to me wearing just about anything and tries not to laugh when my hair experiment doesn't work as planned. I have always worn some vintage, but in recent years I've decided to sew more of my own clothes and to wear what I like more often regardless of what everyone else is wearing. It's not easy to be the only eccentric (in a good way) in a small town.

I hope the comments section to this post will be filled with good advice and tips for me and anyone else who shares my questions. You don't have to give away your awesome and secret fishing holes, but any help would be appreciated.

So, how do you wear vintage everyday?


  1. *First message* (Blogger caps the number of characters per message so I had to split up my reply.)

    Hello dear Sarah,

    I'll happily take a stab at addressing your queries and sharing my two cents worth on each of the very valid points that you raised.

    First off, I do wear vintage, repro, or vintage appropriate styles the overwhelming majority of the time. When people on the street ask me if I wear it all the time, I answer "yes", and don't feel like that's stretching the truth, because in an average year, when outside of the house, I do wear vintage usually at least 95% of the time. My wardrobe did not come together overnight, nor is it "complete" (there's no such thing, I'm convinced!) or particularly huge (though my husband might try to tell you otherwise :) ), but with time, patience and a lot of bargain hunting, I have put together a fairly well balanced array of garments and accessories that work well for my budget and lifestyle.

    1. Laundry: Not everything vintage needs to be ironed by any means. In fact, I wouldn't say that I don't iron many of my vintage items at all. Blouses and some dresses, plus my Freddies denim, but that's usually it (I don't have a lot of upper body strength due to medical reasons and ironing is a challenge for me, so I'm always on the prowl for garments that will require little to no ironing). Some of the vintage synthetic fabrics like rayon scarcely wrinkle and usually don't need ironing, and even some cottons can get off with an ironing just by ensuring they go from dryer to hanger mighty quickly (the less time sitting the dryer gathering more wrinkles by the moment, the better). Many thicker fabrics are also good at resisting wrinkles. Tweed, heavy wool, corduroy, velvet, and suede/faux suede are some that spring to mind. Linen can be another good choice, too, as it's usually accepted that linen is going to be at least a bit wrinkled most of the time.

    2. Practicality: Doing the dishes in an evening dress isn't called for my any means. Think about what your favourite vintage styles are then thing about what the most practical, durable versions of those pieces are that you can find. Love dress? Reach for sturdy shirtwaist, zip front and housecoat style cottons that are strong and designed to see a busy homemaker through from sun up and sun down. Repro denim, though an investment, is often very sturdy and well made, and will see you through a lot of situations from gardening to walking the dog, playing at the park to running errands. When at home, don't discount the handy merit of aprons, smocks and work shirts. A classic plaid work shirt, some repro jeans, and a headscarf is an instant vintage causal look that's every bit as easy as sweats, yet looks like you just stepped out of another era.

  2. 3. Cost: Goodness, do I hear you loud and clear here! Vintage clothing hasn't been inexpensive for quite some time, IMO, but it's really skyrocketed in recent years. Patience and luck are two virtues that are needed here for sure, as you'll likely be hitting plenty of thrift stores and searching the web (etsy, eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji, etc) for quite a while to find stellar deals these days. They do still happen though, I promise you. Case in point, two winters ago I finally scored a quilted 1950s circle skirt, which had been a vintage wish list item of mine for years. Time and time again I'd seen then sell in the $75-$125+ range on eBay, far beyond my budget for one skirt that month for sure. One day however, I lucked out, bid on one (not expecting to win, as per usual) and amazingly no one else started a bidding war for it. I won it for about $20 (plus shipping) and it has become one of my most frequently worn cold weather staples ever since.

    Some vintage items, for example a winter coat, are worth investing in. The cost per wear in the long run is likely to be quite low, and as its a staple wardrobe piece, it pays to get one that's well made, comfortable and that you love.

    Repro is, by and large, quite expensive - often more so than a comparable genuine vintage piece, but that doesn't mean it's a rip off per se. Repro has the added advantage of being new. Hopefully the fabric is durable, colour fast, well made and easy to launder. It should hold up well for quite some time and if something does happen to it, though you'll no doubt be upset, at least you won't feel like you wrecked a piece of history in the same way that one tends to when true vintage becomes damaged or stained beyond repair.

    Stalk yard sales, flea markets, thrift and consignment stores, vintage and antique shops, actions, estate sales, local classified listings, and online resources for deals on the kinds of pieces you're after. Don't be afraid to ask your relatives if they have any old clothes on hand that they no longer want. Let your friends, coworkers (as a stay at home mom, I realize this one doesn't apply - but what about your DH's coworkers or their wives?), church members, playgroup or park moms, hair dresser and anyone else that you're acquainted with know that you love, and enjoy wearing vintage clothes. You'd be surprised by how many people out there have vintage items that they'll happily give away or sell for a fraction of the price they'd retail for in a shop or online. Even if no one has any items in the moment, they make come into possession of some or encounter other people who have vintage that they could pass along to you. Perfect example, few weeks ago my mom gave me a fabulous 1950s plastic vanity set that a friend's mother gave her, and which she in turn passed along to my mom. She (my mom) didn't have any use for it, and knowing how much I love vintage, she thoughtfully passed it on to me. I'd been wanting just such a set for years and now I have one, and it didn't cost me a dime.

    Not everything you buy has to be genuine vintage. I am a huge proponent of vintage appropriate garments, a good many of which can be thrifted for mere dollars. If you have't had a chance to read it yet, I think you'd love this post of mine (http://www.chronicallyvintage.com/2012/12/a-beginners-guide-to-buying-and-wearing.html), on the subject of getting started with buying and wearing appropriate clothes.

  3. 4. Availability: Much like yourself, I live in area with exceedingly little in terms of vintage clothing selection. We don't have any vintage stores in the area, nor do the few thrift or consignment stores often get vintage clothing or accessories in any more. I find yard sales and flea markets to be decent sources for accessories (jewelry, gloves, the occasional hat, etc), but rarely encounter vintage clothing at them. I do the bulk of my genuine vintage, all of my repro, and chunk of my vintage appropriate shopping online. I have a very set, very modest budget and I (nearly always ;) ) try to stick to it. If there's an investment piece I want/need, I'll save up for it, and pass up tempting "ohhh, pretty" moments, as I like to call them, as best as possible

    The more you're able to put together a wardrobe of good basic pieces that you love, the more you'll find that it feels like you have a bigger wardrobe than you really do, especially if most or all of the items in it are fairly colour coordinated. Add in accessories, and you've stretched it even further. When you buy, are given, etc a new piece, don't just look at it in terms of its most obvious way of being styled. Could a dress be worn with a sweater over it, thus making it look like a skirt? Could you combine a skirt with a similar looking blazer and create a suit? How about slipping a long sleeved blouse under a cute sleeveless summer dress and turning it into a pinafore? Many garments (and accessories) can be styled in a multitude of ways, thus making it feel like your wardrobe is bigger than it really is. Most of our foremothers didn't have anywhere near the amount of clothing that your average woman did, yet they rarely complained or felt like they were lacking. They knew the power of switching things up, accessories, revamping older styled garments to breathe new life into them, and wearing a garment in different ways. Thinking back to these women and how they made their modest sized wardrobes work for them has always been a big source of inspiration for me.

    These answers aren't epically in depth of course, but I hope that they'll help you at least a bit, dear gal. By all means feel free to ask any and all other vintage fashion queries you may have. My two cents worth are happily at your disposal anytime. :)

    And last but not least, have fun with what you wear! Your wardrobe should not cause you stress. It should be a joy and something you get excited about every morning. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a great vintage collection, but over time (and with that aforementioned patience and a bit of luck) it is absolutely possible to build, and moreover, wear the kind of wardrobe you've always wanted.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. Thank you so much, Jessica! I will definitely be looking for rayon pieces, lol! I wish I could afford a pair of repro jeans, but not quite budgeted for yet. I did recently find and win (Yay!) a couple of shirtwaist dresses on ebay, so I'm hoping they work out for me. They are 70s or 80s, but can totally pass for 50s, but are synthetics, so I'm hoping for more leeway with the ironing bit ;)
    I do enjoy the hunt, and am so inspired by your wardrobe! I love how you incorporate vintage, repro, 80s does 50s, and modern clothes. It's making me rethink what I already own.
    I've also tried to start hitting the local charity thrift store more often. They've had some good scores a few times. I recently found a 50s black leather handbag with brass closure for $1! I could kick myself for not buying the one with the clear lucite handle, but I didn't for whatever reason.
    And how awesome that you found a quilted 50s circle skirt! I want one so badly! And if I ever get the infinite amount of time needed to sew everything on my wishlist, I will make one, lol. I have, literally hundreds of vintage patterns that I've collected and have sewn many, but have many more to go through.
    I can think back to my grandmothers and how they really wore just a few outfits several different ways. It sometimes makes me sad to see how many cheap clothes I've purchased over the years and piled up many without even wearing them very often. I have been scaling back my clothes pile for a few years now, and even cutting up clothes to refashion for myself and the kids.
    I'm really blessed that my husband loves it when I dress vintage, so he's actually encouraging me to buy/sew more! And a big part for me is how I feel in vintage. I think I actually get more accomplished than I do in sweats and a t-shirt, because I'm in a different mindset, and I think I look better.
    And feel free to answer in depth any time. When you have knowledge to share, please do!
    Keep inspiring the rest of us, Jessica! Praying for your health!

  5. You are very, very welcome, honey. I love to discuss any element of vintage fashion and I really felt like your questions resonated deeply with elements of my own life. I woke up this morning and my first thought was that I forgotten to mention a post that related to some of the points I touched on in my replies last night, so I'll do so here now: http://www.chronicallyvintage.com/2012/06/five-ways-to-make-your-vintage-wardrobe.html

    Thank you so much for your wonderfully nice words (compliments!). I am such a huge believer in mixing all kinds of pieces, as you said, to help stretch one's wardrobe and will be posting more about this topic later in the year, when I discuss why I wear and love 1980s does 40s and 50s pieces (and I'm sure it's a topic that will appear time and time again in the future).

    It's awesome that your husband loves it when you wear vintage, mine does as well, and truly makes life so much easier and more enjoyable. I actually could imagine at this point in my life being with someone who wasn't a fan of the way I dressed. I think that would be a dating deal breaker, if I was single.

    Our conversation here has me thinking about each of these points even more, and I foresee a post or two spring to life from them. The wheel are turning... :)

    ♥ Jessica

    1. I am definitely going to check out your post, and am looking forward to reading your future ones on building and maintaining a vintage wardrobe.
      My husband and I met in high school, and I dressed differently than everyone else then, too. He actually said he always admired that about me.
      And my five year old daughter already has a very definite opinion on what she wears. I figure as long as she's modest and appropriate (no pajamas outside of the house and no shorts by themselves in the snow), I don't really care what she wears or even whether she matches. And yet she's discovering matching and how to accessorize tastefully on her own.
      I did get a couple new dresses off eBay in the mail today. One 50s shirtwaist for $5.99 an two deadstock late 40s/early50s cotton house dresses for $22.56! Hopefully I can get some outfit pictures up soon!