Common Vintage Misconceptions

Wearing vintage day-to-day can create a lot of questions and comments from various people…friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers. I tell people where I shop, and there is often a flurry of comments regarding such places and vintage clothing itself, many of which are simply untrue…

Vintage Smells

Many people think that because something is old it automatically smells funky.  Not so.  It can depend on where you shop.  Most thrift stores have that…well…thrift store smell.  I can’t deny it.  But not all of the garments in the store smell that way. However high-end vintage shops often have garments cleaned before putting them out for sale.  But you wash your new clothes, you can often do the same with most vintage, although some vintage does require a proper dry-cleaner.

Are You Going to a Costume Party?

Okay, this one could be an entry in itself.  Wearing vintage can go one of two ways.  You can wear vintage because you simply like it, and then pair it with newer accessories to make it look like a modern piece.  I’ve noticed many contemporary clothing that has hints of vintage – just look at what the First Lady wears.  Many of her dresses have a mid-60s vibe to them.  Or you can go all the way and look like you just stepped out of a certain decade.  It all depends on what you do in addition to the vintage garment.  I personally like the whole period look, so I roll with it 24/7.  But you don’t have to.  If you really love the period, you’ll get used to the comments and questions, or learn to simply ignore them.

Vintage Looks like Hand-Me-Downs or It’s Always Damaged

Not all vintage looks worn-out or like you got it used.  There are still many garments in tip-top shape.  You just have to inspect the garment before purchasing.  But becoming familiar with a needle and thread, if not a sewing machine, will be very beneficial to adding to your closet.  Just remember not to throw out vintage just because a seam popped.  It is worth fixing!

Vintage is Fragile, Isn’t It?

Some vintage is, mostly items from the 1920s or earlier (which I consider “antique”), but for the most part, vintage is of way better quality than most of the clothing out there.  In my days before going totally vintage, I had new garments not last five wearings before something went gone wrong.  Most vintage clothing was made in the US and of fabric that is stronger and sturdier than that of today – which is cheap and made to make as many garments as fast as possible.  I have seen new garments fall apart after a few wearings or washings, but vintage has stood up for decades!

The Sizing is All Weird! Or It’s All Tiny!

So is today’s sizing.  Before going all-in with vintage I had everything in my closet from an XS to an XL and from a size zero to a size ten.  Modern sizing depends heavily upon the brand.  The more expensive a garment, the smaller the sizes tend to be so they can “make you feel good about yourself” and you can say “Oh, I’m a size two!” when you shop at that certain store.  Vintage is less about size numbers and more about garment measurements, especially because 99.9% of vintage does not contain spandex or even elastic.  Size is relative, but measurements never lie.  When you shop vintage, you learn to ignore labels and whip out a tape measure to check the bust and waist before trying on.  I am soooo tired of hearing that all vintage is tiny. It’s not.  Lately I have run across more larger size vintage garments than I have super teeny ones.  They are out there!

Vintage Costs More

Not really… At Buffalo Exchange you can buy a vintage dress for around $25 and bets are that it is of superior quality, most likely made in the US, and under better labor standards than that $40 dress from Target or even Nordstorm, that was probably made in Bangladesh or China.  Sure, the price may go up when you go to a high-end vintage shop, but you can be sure the garment is of way better quality.  Plus you are recycling and supporting your local economy.

I Have to Shop at Strange Stores or I Don’t Like Thrift Stores

Sure, many vintage shops have their little quirks, but that is what makes them charming. They are often eclectic, some are even on the eccentric side, and you’ll see lots of stuff that you may not be into, but doesn’t that happen when you go to the mall too?  I mean you may like Forever 21 and be creeped out by Hot Topic – shopping vintage is the same.  There are some stores that I love to death, and others that I rarely step into.  You just have to be adventurous until you find your favorite selection of shops.  With thrift stores, you don’t have to shop at them unless you want a screaming deal.  No one is forcing you into Goodwill or a charity shop, however if you like the thrill of the hunt, you’ll have fun and find great prices!

12 thoughts on “Common Vintage Misconceptions

  1. Flat out excellent post, I think this is something a lot of us have thought about to ourselves before (I sure know I have). I’ve run into comments of these sorts before, as well having people wonder if I was a total luddite (which I’m not – I totally chuckle to myself sometimes when I’m decked out in a 40s outfit and typing on my Blackberry 🙂 ), but overall, I do find that most people are more “curious kind” than “curious cruel” about my vintage outfits and interest in the past (thankfully!).

    ♥ Jessica

  2. Great post! However, while I agree that these are misconceptions, some of them (i.e. cost, fragility and damages) are often more truer than not when shopping vintage in Australia. I have almost given up going to vintage fairs/shops because you’re sure to encounter one of those three (if not all). Anyway, really interesting and valid points. x

  3. I love thrift and vintage clothes and jewelry.
    But many of the comments above are things I have heard when I share that the item someone covets was purchased at an op shop. In my head I am glad that others don’t want to thrift shop because it means there is more for me!

  4. You need to do a similar post on vintage undergarments and hosiery, starting with, ” Why the hell would anyone want to wear a girdle and stockings in this day and age?” I get that statement, coupled with a look of shock and horror at least several times a month.

  5. Loved reading this! You are so lucky to live in the US, the reason I don’t wear actual vintage is because it is really hard to find real vintage in Australian thrift stores. I’m not sure if this is just where I live, but here the stores that sell vintage dresses from the 50s & 60s often get the dresses and SHORTEN the hemlines so that they are really obscenely short! And then they charge $100 for this now damaged vintage item.

    So I just shop repro, although that still doesn’t stop people commenting on what I’m wearing like I’m some sort of freak.
    I would love it if you ever did a blog post about what to say to some of the rude people out there, or just share your experiences!

    • I have been wondering about Australia and the vintage scene. I guess because I follow so many Australian vintage bloggers that I thought it was rather prominent! That is really sad about the shop that shortens dresses and charges a crazy price! We have a few shops that do that, but mainly with 80s dresses.

      That is a great idea! I’ll get to working on it!


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