True lovers of the thrift store hunt know that vintage never left, even if the hipster next door is rocking it. There’s nothing quite like flipping through hanger after hanger of modern threads only to pause like a deer in the headlights when you find that perfect vintage piece. My personal favorite are floral dresses, soft woolen sweaters with intricate embroidered details and knee-length skirts with an elastic waist.
Like an old man waxing poetic while sitting on a bench in front of the coffee shop, I love to lament to my friends and family members that they simply don’t make things the way they used to anymore. I have about 10 vintage pieces in my wardrobe that were handed down to me by a sweet neighbor whose grandmother passed away. They are among my most favorite and treasured possessions for a host of reasons. Primarily, I cherish them because they were so well-preserved. I look at my own clothes and maybe it’s just the stage of life that I’m in, but half of my blouses have some sort of stain or another splattered across them. My jeans are ripped at the knees from too many times bending down to wipe a runny nose or fix someone’s barrette.
These pieces, however? They are the essence of the word “pristine.” I was assured by my neighbor that the woman who wore them got plenty of use out of them. They saw just as much life and stress and mess as my own clothes do. However, she took incredible care to keep them as clean and pressed as possible. Because of her, I have six cinched waist dresses, two semi-sheer blouses and two woolen pencil skirts in my wardrobe that I’m almost too afraid to wear they are so beautiful.
I’ve recently noticed that what so many are calling “the hipster movement” is more aligned with vintage revitalism. Check out these cool t shirts for example. Adorned with silk screen images of old classic rock bands, they’d fit in perfectly in any hipster’s wardrobe. I can see them paired with some distressed denim and some Chucks for the perfectly nonchalant look that the so-called hipsters are known for.
Yet, it’s important to remember that today’s modern hipsters aren’t the first ones upon whom that term has been placed. From flappers to Woodstockers, there has always been a subculture of rebels who have challenged the norm of socially acceptable fashion, music and other aesthetics. I like to think of these groups as comprised of people holding on to what they believe to be the Last Good Era. For most hipsters today, that looks to be the sixties or seventies. Just take one look around at the next folk concert you attend and you’ll spot at least one girl swaying to the music in a floral head scarf, someone in a bow tie, and someone else in aviators even though the show is inside.
It isn’t a fashion statement so much as it is an expression of personality, and an outward declaration of “I know what good taste is and today’s kids don’t have it.” That’s why I’m drawn to the watercolor florals of bygone eras. It’s why I swoon over pinstripe suits on babies and hoop skirts that flow in the breeze. It’s why I saved every piece of my grandmother’s jewelry instead of pawning the lot to buy a new smartphone.
Vintage clothing conjures up something within us that reminds us of how simple and stylish life once was — even if we weren’t around yet to enjoy and experience it.
We’re here now, and dressing in these duds that some define as throwback, rockabilly or hipster is our way of saying, “I didn’t miss out completely. I can still come to the party. Better yet, I can throw my own.”