Thursday, May 13, 2010

No slave to fashion

Fabulous gown from 1926, in today's New York Times photo spread of vintage fashion

Browsing through 172 photos of vintage fashion finds from all over the world in today's New York Times online I had a lightbulb moment: why so many of us, treasure old wearables. I can only speak for myself, but there's a delightful rebelliousness in buying perfectly good and still attractive clothes that someone else wore decades ago and gave up either because they were no longer fashionable, her size changed, or she died (hopefully in some other garment). Many items in the NYT collection were passed on from grandmothers and other generations, making them even more cherished.

I haven't been a slave to current fashion for decades. I can still remember slogging off to school in the morning, burdened down by four scratchy petticoats under my circle skirt. Out on my own, making my own living, I couldn't justify the desperate efforts to be in style, even in stylish Dallas and San Francisco. Either the "hot" look was inappropriate for me (uncomfortable, too short, too slutty, too silly-looking) or I just balked at spending good cash on something I wasn't in love with, just because it was the trend.

Apparently there are quite a lot of us who feel the same way, for reasons of their own. After all, there are enough rules in life, without submitting to those imposed by corporations to keep us buying more than we need. The phrase "must-have" just sets my teeth on edge. The very idea of spending hundreds of dollars on the latest Manolo Blahnik shoes or Fendi bags to make a fashion statement gives me a headache. The shoes end up hurting, anyway, and the bags don't have enough pockets.

Thank goodness for the consignment and vintage shops, the thrift stores, rummage sales and swap meets where we can indulge our dress-up fantasies and experiment with different looks without guilt.