Monday, November 7, 2011
Vintage is Unoriginal and Derivative: Discuss
I'm very happy to say I've only ever had positive reactions to the way I dress. Unfortunately not everyone enjoys seeing vintage as much as the good people of Chichester do, and there's some dreadful fashion snobbery out there. This was highlighted recently in a certain twitter incident (discussed by Margaret on Penny Dreadful) in which one user (who happens to be a journalist for a respected newspaper) dismissed all vintage fashion as a "boring pastiche" and "silly".
The thoroughly unpleasant tone this journalist took in the exchange was highly objectionable and a topic in itself (mostly covered in the aforementioned Penny Dreadful piece), but aside from the breathtaking arrogance, her comments also got me to pondering this bizarre snobbery in which conforming to the trends prescribed by the modern fashion industry makes one somehow more original or creative than recreating the styles and trends of an earlier era. It's that same attitude that labels vintage "costumey".
But how can wearing modern clothing be considered any more original or creative than wearing vintage? No-one accuses the average fashion-conscious Jane on the street of looking "boring and unoriginal", but all she's done to create her fashionable look is to walk into H&M or Topshop and buy something straight off the rack. I just don't see the logic that wearing leggings or jeans with a top purchased days ago from any high street fashion store makes one person any cleverer than someone else who chooses a style which recollects the fashions of 40, or 50, or 60 years ago. It all comes down to subscribing to a particular aesthetic.
Even those modern fashion icons who combine vintage and modern clothing do so in a way which makes the vintage articles fit within the parameters of modern fashion: so the jeans she's wearing are 'vintage' (circa 1998), or that waistcoat is 1940s; if she's wearing it in a way that's acceptable to the modern fashion mainstream that somehow makes her 'original'? More so than someone who wears a swing dress and hat with novelty socks, or someone who takes modern high street garments and styles them in line with the fashion standards of 1952? Practically everyone is trying to 'recreate' (either directly or with a twist) some look or another; whether it's the 1941 McCall catalogue or last week's catwalk, everyone draws inspiration from somewhere.
Yes, there are those who seek to recreate wholesale the looks of the past, but on the whole that sort of vintage purist (and if that's the way they choose to dress, go them) are a minority, just as there are very few people who try to precisely replicate the latest Prada runway show. But neither will blend in with the crowd and so are still originals in their way.
Of course, I'm delighted for you to wear your 1990s jeans and 1940s waistcoat in a modern context - and I'm certain you'll look totally fabulous - but unlike that haughty journalist on Twitter, you won't consider your choices superior to either High-fashion Henrietta or Vintage Valerie (Tracksuit Tracey, well, that's another topic for another day). Whatever you feel about someone's look, whether it's to your taste or not, when you can see that she's put an effort into it you respect that. And that acceptance of personal style is part of what I love about (most of) the "vintage" scene.
Outfit details: Skirt (1990s), charity shop; Blouse (modern), charity shop; Cardigan (modern), Primark; Shoes (vintage late 40s), ebay; Wool cape (vintage, c1950s-70s), charity shop; Handbag (vintage c1940s), charity shop; Hat (vintage 1940s-50s), ebay; Belt (modern), Marks & Spencer.
So, am I a pastiche? Possibly. Original? Maybe not. Or just someone who dresses reasonably stylishly (I hope!) in the clothes that make her happy?