Vintage: Or, ‘Are You Kidding Me?’

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Pic: Lorna Dollery

I don’t usually put my columns up verbatim, as the people who subscribe to my blog may not be readers of The Cork Independent (but I do link shamelessly).  This week however…

Let me explain.  Last Sunday I went carbooting with Lorna from LolaDee and sold a few items.  One item, a dress (to my immediate right in the pic above, hanging off the car boot) that Lorna had bought brand new in Italy was being scrutinised by a few ladies, who introduced themselves as owning a vintage shop.  I offered to show them my few vintage bits, they politely declined, bought the dress and tootled along on their way.

A few days later, Lorna saw their shopfront and noticed that these ladies were now selling her distinctly non-vintage dress, falsely advertising it as being vintage.  The column below is about the difference between thrift and vintage – maybe those ladies should take note.

The ability for humans to delude themselves is a wondrous thing; especially if shopping is involved and extra-super especially if second hand clothing is your vice. We disguise second-hand clothing, cloaking them with deceptive phrases like, ‘thrift’, ‘gently used’ or even, horror of horrors, ‘vintage’. This humble writer knows her stuff when it comes to second-hand. Stripes have been earned, chops have been developed, cliches have been bandied without a sliver of shame that best illustrate just how much I know.


Here in Ireland, the Celtic Tiger was the wave on which the resurgent vintage phenomenon was borne and with it came a similar philosophy to its feline forefather – that of charging through the nose for inferior products just because the vendor could. There are many excellent handbooks on the subject of vintage, but since you, the reader, has picked up this great paper totally gratis, I’ll give you a cod-version of second hand shopping for nada; the savvy woman’s guide to second hand.



Second-hand is an umbrella term for several different types, all different but easily mistaken for one or the other of the following.


1) Gently worn clothing. You know that time you went into Brown Thomas and bought that leather trench that was sooo amazing even though it fit funny in the shoulders just because the sales were on? How amazing was that jacket? The answer is not very, because you took it home, realised that you looked like a less self-assured Shaft and buried it deep in your closet along with the Crocs, ill-fitting treggings and regrettable one-night stands, then dug it out and sold it at the local car boot. Voila, gently worn clothing. As a rule, gently worn clothing should be sold at about a third of its original price. Anything lower is a distinct bargain.


2) Thrift. The phrase ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ has never been more relevant here than perhaps at a blowfish sushi convention. Thrift is usually the average stock of the very average charity shop. It is one or a combination of the following; well-worn, less than twenty years old, mass-produced and badly tailored, stained, flawed or ripped in some way. It can also be unusual or unexpected in the best possible way. Scoring a great bargain from a charity shop results in a high and a misplaced short term sense of achievement that the average Big Brother winner would be at odds to replicate. If you’re a dab hand with a sewing machine, then thrift may be for you. I’ve seen cosmetic makeovers on oversized, psychedelic print kaftans that would put the average Swan contestant to shame.


3) Vintage. There’s lots of thrift items that aspires to be vintage the way some people vie to join members-only clubs. However, if vintage was a club, there would be a very long waiting list. At least twenty years, to be specific. Vintage clothing should be in a good condition, wearable, fashionably relevant and relatively rare.Because of these factors, good vintage can be expensive. Your cheap vintage buy usually means that someone got very lucky, and that someone probably isn’t you. One man’s meat may be another man’s poison, but there’s no disputing the power of the fillet steak – maybe that’s why it’s so expensive.

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5 thoughts on “Vintage: Or, ‘Are You Kidding Me?’

  1. >yes can't trust those second hand stores now that vintage is the newest facination of the masses. i tend to refer to most of my so-called "vintage" stuff as retro or second hand lately, unless it's from the 70s or earlier. i slip up sometimes though, because vintage just sounds so much better than thrift.

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