Questions on the Street

In my last post I wrote about common vintage misconceptions and in the comments Harlow of Suburban Retro said she would be interested in hearing my responses to the questions and comments I get while out and about.  Let’s be honest, we vintage gals don’t dress like everyone else, so it draws attention and sometimes questions and comments.  Below are some questions and answers from myself and some of my fellow vintage loving friends…

Are you in a play?/going to a costume party?

“Are you in a play?” is the question I get asked most!  I really don’t understand why I get asked this question so many times.  I was heavily involved in theatre growing up and unless the costumes were our own clothes we were NEVER allowed to wear our costumes out.  In fact, wearing make-up after a rehearsal or show was not encouraged. So, the questions seems rather silly to me.  I often reply with “No.” And either they do not respond or respond with one of the following questions.  However, if you are feeling daring, you can always respond with Solanah’s (of Vixen Vintage) answer of “No. Are you?”

Where are you going all dressed up?

Often where I am is where I was going… so I often respond with “Here.” Whether it’s the grocery store or a restaurant.  Sometimes that will shut them up.  My friend Lyndsie of Retro Rejuvenation had this to say on the matter “I just tell them it’s how I dress everyday and that it’s actually a lot easier to throw on a vintage dress and heels than it is for me to find pants/shirt outfit. I don’t mean to come off as rude but people dress so poorly these days…”

Do you dress like this every day?

This question often requires a simple and polite “Yes.” Sometimes people follow up with other questions or comments.  Comments often include “It’s nice to see a woman dress like a lady” or “I like it”, and in that case I simply say “Thank you.” My husband is very good and quashing questions from big-eyed on-lookers, by very curtly replying “Yes.” almost in a tone that says “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Why?”

This question often follows one of the above.  I often respond with “I really like vintage fashion. I think it has much better styling and of much better materials than that of today’s clothing.”  My friend Angelica responds with “It fits me better and the materials are better.” (Amen to that, sister!) And my friend Megan responds with a very good answer “Do you see the way my body is shaped? I wear clothes made for women with real curves.”  Which is a very fair response.  Vintage was made without stretch fabrics, so it is made for women’s bodies, not to accommodate them.

“Is that real fur?”

Fur has been the topic of debate for a long time, and has been covered by many blogs.  I covered it briefly after purchasing my fox.  I have yet to be asked anything or received any comments regarding the fur I wear.  However if someone were to ask me, I would respond with “Yes, but it is vintage.” If they still have qualms with it, I would simply respond with “I don’t buy new fur, so I’m not supporting the current industry, and there is nothing I can do about vintage fur.”  Angelica had someone inquire about her fur and they said “You know you can look good without killing God’s creatures.” To which Angelica responded with “It’s okay, it’s been dead longer than your mom has been alive.”  Megan responds with “Well the way I see it, this animal was killed long before I was even alive, I am in no way harming it nor even supporting the company that originally made it. I’m just being classy AND warm.”  By far my favorite response to the fur controversy is that of my friend Sara, of Lilies & Remains; “You’re wearing clothing made by children!”

“Are your seams tattooed?”

Wearing stockings causes a lot of questions, including “Are your seams tattooed?”.  My friend Hannah has the perfect response for that question as well as why many of us like to wear stockings in general, “While it would save me a lot of money to just make them permanent, for me it’s about the style of what I’m wearing.”  Often I get the comment “I like your tights” when wearing seamed stockings.  Depending on the situation and the person, I tend to just say “Thank you” despite their comment being incorrect.

“Where do you find this stuff?”

Many “normal” people seem to not quite understand vintage fashion and shopping.  It’s as if it’s shocking to find old clothes.  I just tell them “Vintage clothing shops, second-hand shops and antique malls.” Often they just raise their eyebrows at me…like they still don’t get it.

A Few More Words of Advice…

My friend Heather takes every question and comment as an chance to educate, “I treat all questions as a teaching opportunity! Any chance to preach the gospel of vintage and reuse and American/Union made is a good one. I love any chance to chat with strangers! If I didn’t, I wouldn’t dress this way. Always be polite, gracious and kind.” And I agree with her.  Sometimes the simple fact is that people don’t know any better.  They think everyone shops at the mall.

20 thoughts on “Questions on the Street

  1. Here here sister! I don’t dress head to toe vintage or go for a period specific look, but I am often “over dressed” for most occasions (I personally don’t think I am, I am just referring to uber casual society in which we live) and I often get comments from people like “did you just come from a wedding/funeral/party?” or “why are you so dressed up?”. My response is always: “This is the way I always dress”.
    Really, what more can be said?

    Great posts! Some of vintage girls responses made me laugh out loud! Especially the “Your clothes are made by children! LOL!

  2. Wow, I adore your friend’s comment about other people’s clothes being made by children. I wish I was that quick on my feet. These about follow my responses. I’m not too keen to educate unless I have the time.

  3. I couldn’t add much on this because I actually never get any comments like this. I guess people just think I’m a hipster and that is that? I get nothing but compliments at places like antique shows when I am really dressed up. I’m shy so any/all comments I never know what to do with, even if they are positive.

    I do get how people like to make others feel like an outsider and not normal and it’s sad. I think people should be accepted for who they are and how they dress. In Portland I’d think you wouldn’t get as many comments, at least in our close-in area.

  4. Very elegant and polite answers! I find sometimes the simplist are the best. Whenever people ask my why I dress a certain way I just say “because it makes me happy”. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your opinions and day to day life in vintage. 🙂 x

  5. It’s funny how the world over people from different countries can be so different…and exactlty the same! I have been asked all the above questions, except the play, and it is curious to watch peoples reactions to the answers that I give. I try to be patient and kind with my responses too. Sometimes this is hard when the woman who is looking at me with disdain and disapproval is wearing a pair of jeans, a random t-shirt, no makeup and unkept hair.

    On the other hand I am lucky enough to get many lovely compliments and whispered confessions of ” I’d like to dress like that, but I can’t because…” or “Your hair is so beautiful, it must take you hours”. These are the people I like to engage it conversation, like your friend Heather. I take the opportunity to let them know that they can be brave, it isn’t hard, it doesn’t take very much effort or money.

    I won’t say too much about the real fur issue. I love my furs and they do attract alot of bad attention. I tell people they were dead before I was born and I have no guilt in loving and cherishing them…they should be loved and worn, not thrown out or shoved away in a cupboard.

    It’s so of you to share these experiences, it adds to the feeling of a vintage sisterhood, thanks Janey!

    xx Shauna

  6. I love to wear vintage, but often times merely just end up in jeans and a killer vintage hat. Even then, I earn some great looks/comments. My personal favorite: “Can you actually SEE through that {veil}?” My response, “Yes, unless I am looking at a very bright light.”

  7. I feel like I must say – I usually only get compliments & genuine curiosity, therefore I am always polite & gracious….

    BUT the lady who got in my face about the fur…. well that children comment came from the bottom of my defensive heart. I thought, how could she possibly scold me for 80 year old fur, when her attire is made in a foreign country, with a lack of labor law enforcement! Arg she was so horrible!

    So, thanks for finding me amusing, and not you know, bitchy snobby pants central.

    ❤ Sara

  8. I mostly get positive inquiries, with comments, like “I would love to dress like that, but I have nowhere to wear things like that. My response is, “Why save your favorite things, for special occasions. I feel good wearing vintage. If I am overdressed, so what. I get to feel good everyday, not just on special occasions!” Why should i only feel pretty on special occasions, why not every day!

  9. Ohhh I’m so glad you made a whole post about this! It is wonderful to hear about everyone’s different experiences and especially responses – I always struggle with responses.

    Recently I was on the train and it was a reallllllly crowded carriage and this group of four men (probably in their 40s) were sitting next to where I was standing. So one of them started pointing at me (when I am less than a metre away!) and talking about me like I’m some sort of side show freak on display. Not once acknowledging that I am a human being, but some sort of object that is deaf and dumb. I am a rather hot tempered person and was pretty close to just exploding and screaming at this group of people! But instead, all I could manage to come up with was a really really lame response; “Why don’t you take a picture and make it last longer?” and then just walked away into another carriage.
    I often get people staring and whispering about me so I just death stare them until they stop.

    I have really bad social anxiety. Sometimes when I go into a store I get cornered by overly bubbly overzealous shop assistants who start asking me questions at about a million miles an hour and I just feel like I’m going to pass out! My biggest wish is just for people not to ask…or say anything….it stresses me out far too much!

    Thank you for posting this though, it gives me some ideas on what to say next time 🙂

  10. Great post Janey and I love some of the responses. Especially Sara’s “You’re wearing clothing made by children!”.

    I never really get asked questions like these but I don’t usually dress in head-to-toe vintage. I’ve often been asked about where I got my dress and I always delight in saying it’s vintage. A question which usually follows this one is “where did you find it?”, which I usually respond with something along the lines of “look and you shall find”… depending on who the person is. 😉

  11. Huge dittoes with the vintage fur comments!

    I really enjoyed this post, not just for the common questions asked, but possible responses us vintage-loving gals can give. I have to say that one of the reasons I tend not to dress vintage everyday is the fear of comments like these. Or stares, I got a ton of those when I went shopping after the 1938 picnic last month. Anyways, I know that people’s opinions should not be a motivating factor in how I dress and that I should dress in a way that makes me happy. For me, though, dressing full head-to-toe vintage like once a week and then vintage-inspired the rest of the week is what work’s best. 😉

  12. Wonderful post – I think just about all of us who have been wearing vintage for much time at all encounter similar comments. The two questions that I get most often are (some variation of) “Are you an actress?” and “Are you going someplace fancy/special?”.

    So long as the person is polite, I don’t mind either or any respectful question that’s posed to me at all. People are usually very sweet and follow up with a compliment, which inevitably bolsters my confidence and spirit.

    Canadians tend to be a fairly friendly, keep to yourself bunch, and I feel very fortunate that I haven’t run into a lot of the more negative comments and questions that I know many elsewhere in the world have. I’m not saying everyone has been wildly polite, but for the most part they have been, and I love that such questions give me a chance to help spread the good word (so to speak) about the fact that a select portion of society prefers to wear vintage fashions all the time.

    ♥ Jessica

  13. Same questions for me here in France! When I went to the USA, many people asked us if we were some dancers going to perform somewhere….
    Some strange questions: “Is this your real hairs?”, “Do you also wear vintage panties?”, “Can you show me your tatoos?”, “Why are you wearing clothes from the XIXth century?” (as I’m wearing a huge 50’s petticoat…)…
    I think that “normal” people are more strange than us vintage lovers….

  14. My best friend’s daughter once said to me, “My father thinks you dress funny and your clothes are stupid.” (My girlfriend and the child’s father are divorced. Don’t know why she married him to begin with.) I responded, “I try to be a good friend and a kind person. If the worst thing anyone can say about me is that my ‘clothes are stupid,’ then I won’t worry in the least.”

  15. This is such a FANTASTIC post. I mostly get positive comments about the way I dress – although I don’t often dress in full period so perhaps I don’t stand out as much. Whenever I see a fellow vintage lover all decked out it makes me smile – they look stunning.

  16. The nerve of people! What gives anyone the right to go up to someone in a store and ask these types of questions? I rarely wear more than one vintage piece at a time, and I do not have a vintage “look” so I’ve never encountered this uber-rudeness. You are a lot nicer than I’d be!

  17. I get the “are you in a play” question all the time!! I don’t mind the questions at all, as long as they are positive. The people are just curious and interested when they see something different. They usually ask one of the above questions and then comment on how pretty my style is, how classy or elegant it looks or something of that nature. More often than not, they want to know where they can find something like what I’m wearing or how to do their hair like mine and I end up passing on a business card for my blog or shop! I’ve had several older gentlemen stop in their tracks and stare, which is uncomfortable until they say “I’m sorry, you remind me of my wife when we met!” which is very sweet! 🙂

  18. I wear vintage ever day. The one thing I always get since I take public transportation is people staring at me, not just a little look but double and quadruple takes. I so badly want to tell theses starers, take a picture it will last longer but I do not dare say it, I don’t want to be rude. So, what I do instead is try not to pay attention to the starring. I remind myself I am awesome, dressing vintage makes me feel super awesome, kind of like a super heroine, I love that I do not look like a cookie cutter cut out of the woman next to me.

  19. PS
    Great advice.

    The comments I often get are I like your outfit, I like how you dress, did you make it yourself? To this I always say no, its an original from the 1940s-1960s and smile.
    I live in an urban part of the city in the midwest. I kind of feel like the Loanranger at times without a Tanto at my side. I know there are other vintage fashionest in my area. I just find it hard making friends with them for some reason. When I walk up to another vintage fashion lady the first words I say is I like your outfit and smile. She then looks at my outfit too and says I like your outfit too. Then we part ways.

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