Don’t get me wrong. I love fashion. As almost all girls, and guys, seem to do these days. But at times I find it extremely difficult to refrain from poking fun at it, especially at the seriousness, self-importance, and pretentiousness surrounding it. Like how the buzzword of the moment is VINTAGE. Which I have no problems with, at all. More the opposite, I’m embracing it with wide scooping arms and opp-shop-scouring feet. “What old is new again.” Grrrrreat! Bring it on.
But the thing that irks me is how every time someone’s interviewed on their fashion choice, whether they’re a successful millionaire entrepreneur, or a second year student still on government support, the answer is always something along the lines of “My style? Oh, kinda eclectic [another buzzword du jour] really. I like to mix vintage pieces with high-end designer items. See this skirt? Five bucks from the Salvos store. This bag? Well, just a Birkin.”
Yeah right! Opp shop meets Hermes. Kinda a cool catchphrase back in 2005 when it started doing the rounds. When I first heard it I was like, Wow that’s great. Someone with a six-digit salary admits to snooping around the back of danky dusty charity stores (just like me!). But since it is now on the edge every (fashionable) lip, just hanging to jump out before you can say “individuality”, it’s giving me the rash! All over my body!
I wouldn’t want to appear the purist or extremist, but buying vintage clothes at prices much higher than brand-new ones, from trendy second-hand shops where they did everything for you — all the scouring and searching and separating the wearable 60’s flowery frocks from the “wouldn’t be seen dead in” garish numbers, is kinda like cheating. And what with all the vintage designer pieces? Where did they get those from? In my local opp shops I never spot a “vintage Missoni gown”. Instead all I’ve seen were old prom dresses that someone’s grandma obviously made for her, with a huge stain on the front that smells suspiciously like cat piss. Why? Why?! Sorry, guess it’s just a case of sour grapes.
Anyhow, I’m dying to hear someone brave enough to say: “Oh I love mixing vintage with second-hand with opp-shop with hand-me-downs from my nanna“. Or what about “My collection includes lots of opp-shop finds and pieces from Kmart and Target.” Or even, “Stuff it. I only wear designer clothes because the price tag is no problem to me and I love the quality and the exlusiveness of it all.” Actually, that’s not brave, just truly honest and individual.
Another thing I hope will become uber-cool in the near future is self-made clothes. To be practical, I’m not expecting us to make all our outfits, but even just a few of them. If the recent trend of vintage have made you appreciate the timelessness of great designs and the lasting quality of good textile and workmanship, then creating your own garbs would further teach you to treasure the passion, skill and effort that’s gone into the making of each garment.
I have seen a shirt my late aunty sewed for my Mum when Mum was 6 (!), which makes it a good 50 years old. As you can imagine, there was no fancy overlockers or multiple-stitch sewing machines back then. A needle, a reel of thread, and a piece of fabric were all you got. But the hand stitches my aunty made were straight and uniform to the millimetre! I kid you not. When I was little, I once measured them with a ruler. (Yeah, I’ve always been a skeptic like that.) And I won’t go into technical details, lest you fall asleep (if you haven’t already done so), but those handstitches are actually more structurally secure than machine made ones. Mum also used to make our clothes with the old Brother machine Dad got her. I still keep most of them, all neatly folded in a special suitcase. Many were made from left-over scraps of material that Dad brought home. They’re my life treasure, not only because of their emotional value, but also because they’re perfect example of well-made, well-fitted, original clothes.
So if this trend catches on, and I dearly hope it would soon, instead of merely asking “Which shop did you get that from?“, we’d be all “What pattern is that? Burda or Simplicity? What thread size did you use? What fabric? Which needle? What stitch length? Pah, too much information, should I get my Mum to make it for me?” (Okay, maybe not the last bit!) Then there’ll be less waste. People will learn a wonderful skill. The local fabric shop will flourish. Our attire will be so much more unique. And awkward situations where you get on a tram and sit opposite a girl, who on the same day has decided to wear the exact same dress in the exact same colour as you do, and for the whole half-hour journey you two have to try your best to avert your eyes from each other, would be much less likely to happen.
Wouldn’t that be grand?