A Note on Vintage Repro

Thanks for all of your kind words in my last post.  I’m still sniffly, but I certainly feel like I’m on the up and up and was able to take just two snaps for this post.

Over the time I’ve had this blog I have gotten a lot of questions about plus-size vintage clothing.  So many people complain that vintage is all tiny.  And I’m here to say it’s not.  While plus size vintage may be harder to come by, it isn’t non-existent.  I don’t know about you, but I can flip through plenty of old photos and see some plus size gals – not everyone was tiny back then. However, since it is harder to come by, many retro loving plus size gals turn to vintage repro to fill their closets and I then get questions on which vintage repro/vintage inspired brand is the best.  But that’s a bit of a hard question to answer…until now.  So buckle up and get ready for discussion of vintage repro.

The truth of the matter is I rarely buy new (vintage repro or otherwise) and this is for a combination of reasons. There are a handful of items I do buy from vintage repro sites, because I can’t find very much of certain items in the vintage world, like pants for example. In all honesty I just don’t look at vintage repro sites often because I don’t want or need to.  I like the thrill of the hunt.  I like giving my money to a local shop.  I like having unique items.  I like the quality of real vintage.  And I like sewing my own clothes.  So this leaves me with very little experience in the vintage repro world…until now.  Recently I have been lucky enough to stumble onto some vintage repro second hand and can now give my personal opinion on it.

Stop Staring was one of the first large vintage repro companies to hit the market. Riding the Neo-Swing wave, Stop Staring was established in 1997 and offers up mostly dresses with a tiny selection of separates. All garments are designed by a female designer who wants to give women the chance to embrace their inner femme fatale by providing figure flattering and curve hugging garments.

Some Stop Staring dresses have stretch to their fabric, while others do not.  This dress has an insane amount of stretch to it.  Which I personally don’t care for since it often creates odd bunches (which you can see in the above image) that you’re constantly tugging it back down.  But I like their styles, the fact the garments have back zippers and I also love that their garments are made in the USA.

One brand that has really picked up popularity is Trashy Diva.  I was introduced to the brand by fellow blogger The Fiercest Lilliputian who has a few of their dresses and adores them.  I really loved many of their patterns and the cuts were amazing! Seriously, some of their dresses could be dead ringers for the real deal.  But most of their garments have side zippers (seriously, I could do a whole post on my side zipper problem).  So that and the price forced me to turn away from their items.  But recently I scored one of their dresses for less than half of what it cost new.

When I tried the dress on I was really pleasantly surprised by their side zipper.  Unlike most side zippers that stop an inch or so before the armpit, Trashy Diva zippers go all the through to the sleeve!  This makes the dress ten times easier to get on and off, and doesn’t strain the fabric like other side zipper garments.  (This strain often results in the zipper being pulled loose from the garment and/or causing the fabric to sheer.)

Some of Trashy Diva’s dresses have stretch, others do not, such as this one which is 100% rayon.  And some have linings, but some don’t.  For me, I personally don’t care for linings with the exception of a coat.  I much prefer to wear slips than deal with linings.

I do want to make note of one quality thing that I encountered.  Even though I did buy my Trashy Diva dress second hand, it still had its original tags and replacement button attached.  So I believe the dress was unworn.  However, I noticed that the fabric on the fabric covered buckle was already beginning to show wear.

Second hand or not, I really don’t feel like this should be happening yet and it’s disappointing.  But honestly I don’t care too much for the belt.  Partially because it’s not all that flattering due to the fact that even on the tightest setting the belt was still loose.  Also, the light fabric is applied to a black belt, which causes the whole belt to be a shade darker than the rest of the garment.  I may find myself pairing this dress with a different belt or no belt at all, it looks just dandy without.  With regards to manufacturing location, Trashy Diva garments are made in China.

I found both the Stop Staring and the Trashy Diva dresses to be immensely comfortable as well.  Especially the Trashy Diva one, which was lightweight and soft.  And the stretch in the Stop Staring made it easy to move in.

Furthermore, I find that vintage repro fills a nice, specific niche in my wardrobe – travel.  When traveling you run the risk of losing or ruining your garments. It’s just a sad fact. And I would much rather lose a new garment, that may be easily replaced, as opposed to a vintage, possible one-of-a-kind garment.

Other vintage inspired companies that I have highlighted are Freddies of Pinewood, eShakti (experiences viewable here and here) Collectif and more recently Bettie Page Clothing.

There are so many more vintage repro and vintage inspired companies out there. Here is a small list for you to check out.  I have noted where the garments are made for the companies that I was able to find that information.

Heyday – Made in the UK and New Zealand
Vivian of Holloway
Pin-up Girl Clothing
Boo Boo Kity Couture – Handmade in the UK
Jitterbuggin’ Clothing – Handmade in Portland, Oregon
Shabby Apple
Nicole Katherine
NudeeDudee – Made in Los Angeles, California
Bernie Dexter – Made in the USA

As always, any future vintage repro/vintage inspired garments that I purchase or collaborate with I’ll share my experiences with you.  But I do want to note, I am by no means a clothing quality expert.  I’ve never peeked into a designer garment to look at the stitching, and I don’t go into high-end shops and turn garments inside out.  But I can feel the difference between fabrics and tug at seams and give it my best, but sometimes the true quality of a garment isn’t shown until it’s worn and washed the couple of times, and that’s another reason I love real vintage – it’s been around the block a few times and holding on strong.

22 thoughts on “A Note on Vintage Repro

  1. I have very much the same opinion as you with regards to buying clothing. The only thing I buy new is underwear and shoes. Shoes only because I’ve not found good second hand ones here and vintage is cost prohibitive. There’s not a lot of repro in my closet either. It all comes from the time when I was first getting into the vintage look and wasn’t fully clued in on the hunt yet. I have a two Trashy Diva dresses: a full skirt 50s cotton one and the Betty bustle dress. It has a back zipper! But I agree with you re: quality. It’s ok but not perfect.
    I’ve bought from My Baby Jo before and they are great. They have some menswear and some other cool stuff too.
    Also, have you heard of Tara Starlet? They’re a UK brand and their sailor shorts are my favorite repro purchase. They’re super comfortable and very flattering.
    Otherwise, I don’t go for anything with stretch! And agreed on slips > linings. Much more versatile and saves on cleaning.

  2. Huge dittos to everything you just said!!! I think Repro vintage does serve a very good purpose since it can be difficult to find vintage in certain sizes. That being said, the quality of a lot of retro vintage I’ve handled is sub-par, and the fabrics are so stretchy (which is why I like to make my own repro vintage clothes some time)! Also, a lot of repro vintage lines are more focused on the pin-up/rockability look that shows a lot of cleavage. Authentic vintage tends to be a bit classier (oh, did that sound snarky? lol) On the other hand, sometimes I do feel guilty wearing authentic vintage since it’s so old and I have this innate urge to preserve the past. But then I remember how many vintage pieces are already in climate-controlled rooms on museums, and I feel better.

    I did, however, just get a really neat pair of repro Stop Staring vintage shorts for under 20 bucks by a fellow vintage gal. They fit perfectly and look so authentic. Oh, and I can now take a pattern off of them and make my own version, which is also how I get a lot of my clothes. 😉

  3. Brilliant post! I have that Trashy Diva dress too and although I bought it directly from their site it didn’t come with a belt! So strange… I do LOVE Trashy Diva, I have a few of their dresses now and they are wonderful. I was wearing my Streetcar dress the other day and one lovely old lady came up to me and said that when she saw me she couldn’t believe her eyes, she thought I’d walked out of the 50s.

    There are so many reasons that I choose to wear repro (I think I’ll have to do a post!) but mainly it’s because since vintage items are one off, I’ve never had any luck finding my size! I don’t think it really matters what size you are, it’s all just a matter of luck – unless you have really awesome seamstress skills. I’m also a major sucker for really vivid and artistic prints (like Bernie Dexter’s dresses) so repro caters to my peacock tendencies 😛

  4. I love people who get real about their clothes. I agree with everything you said here. I love the Stop Staring style but I struggle with the stretchiness of the fabric – for different reasons than you stated. As a large girl I generally like stretch but the Stop Staring dresses I’ve tried were so stretchy it accented all of by rolls and wobbly bits. Not flattering. As a plus size gal, I like shopping at Unique Vintage. Their house brand clothes fit wonderfully and they have a larger selection than some other repro shops.
    Thanks for the info!

    Hellcat Vintage

  5. What a coincidence! Did you purchase the trashy diva dress from redlight clothing? If so, it was previously mine. It didn’t fit quite right so I ended up selling it. It looks great on you!

  6. Heartbreaker Fashion .com is another good choice! I have about 4 of their dresses. Back zips, unlined, and sizing to about a US 18! They make the clothes upon order in the US.

  7. Love the Trashy Diva dress, seriously tempted to purchase but it’s right inbetween sizes. My size is sold out. I’m not sure if I should go up or down:)

  8. Thank you for this very thoughtful and detailed comparison! I’ve been interested in buying from both of these companies, but I’m reluctant to spend so much money when I can’t feel the fabrics or examine the stitching. I’m glad to know who uses stretchy fabric, linings, and exactly how the zippers operate! So many reviewers just say “It’s so cute! I love it!” but don’t say WHY they love it. Hmm, I do see the problem with the Trashy Diva belt. Since I tend to add my own belts, that’s okay with me.

    Since I’m a librarian, and we’re constantly bending, crouching, and pushing heavy carts, I like to wear vintage repro at work. It’s modest enough for a professional setting, very pretty, but not as fragile or precious as real vintage. I think I’ll look into Trashy Diva for work and Stop Staring for dresses to wear when I go to shows.

    • I work in a Library too. That is what I love most about working in the Library I am allowed to dress full on vintage every day. And never have any clothing issues. Only thing I tend to be careful with is when I have to break out the ink pad to stamp items. 🙂

  9. Great post… I’m so glad that there are other people who can review this sort of thing for me before I go spend my own money! I wear very little commercial repro, preferring genuine vintage, good-enough thrifted pieces from the 80s on, and repro garments that I sew myself. Durability and fit are important to me, but not nearly as important as budget! I find repro brands generally tend to be quite expensive. I’d love to be able to buy some of the brighter novelty print repro items, but that will have to wait until I have a higher-paid job!

  10. Don’t forget Tara Starlet! Tara Starlet is the best vintage repro company, in my opinion, by far! Quality fabrics, great prints and cuts, and all ethically made in the UK. I have several pieces by Tara Starlet and absolutely none disappoint. And their prices are not a steep as companies like Bettie Page and Trashy Diva. Generally around $125 with the exchange rate. Not cheap, but if you want to splurge on a quality item which is also ethically made. And they LOOK vintage. Check them out, if you haven’t already at http://www.tarastarlet.com.

  11. What a wonderful, detailed, lovely post and look at some of today’s best repro sellers. Most repro is beyond the scope of my budget, but I must say that most those pieces I have bought over the years, have been really, really well made and worth every last penny. I’m currently trying to save up for a piece from Bettie Paige Clothing and also have my eyes on some dresses from two other repro sellers as well (with a bit of luck – and not to many unexpected expenses over the next few months, hopefully some of these garments will end up in my closet).

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* I’m with you to no end about side zippers (and could also rant at length about why I’m not a big fan of them).

  12. Such a debated topic! 🙂 I have a only one Trashy Diva & the fit & quality is great. I never feel quite as special in it as I do a genuine vintage piece but then again if someone was to spill something on me I wouldn’t be so utterly grief stricken! As I know it can be replaced, unlike a one off vintage find.
    I agree that they do fill a gap. I buy new wool sweaters & will often get trousers made for me as repro are never the right fit! Getting items made is a great way to keep local seamstresses in business & usually doesn’t cost much more (if less) than buying a repro item!
    Great post! Love Vintage Vessel xxx

  13. Love that Trashy Diva dress! It’s so pretty on you!

    I totally want to hear your rant about side zippers, as I also have a huge issue with them!!! I struggle so much to get into vintage dresses with a tiny side zip opening, that most of the time, if I see one on a dress that I like, I don’t even bother trying it on, as I know it will end in a frazzled hair, sweaty palmed, flustered situation! Haha! Sadly, I find that many 1940s dresses have these types of fastenings, so my 1940s dress collecting suffers as a result.

  14. I agree with you about some repo vintage clothing to much stretch. I am glad you added that not all repo clothing is made with stretchy fabric. One thing I fear sometimes when buying repo is someone else will have the same outfit. Yet with true vintage it does not happen.

    Once I was out shopping and a woman tapped me on the arm. I looked up and she looked like she had on the same long wool coat I had. It was the funniest thing. Until I asked her who was her coat made by and where she got it and does her coat have this and that on it. While the coats were the same color and length they were very different if one looked closer at our coats. Turns out her coat was thrifted while my vintage looking coat was made my Victoria secret. It was so awesome that happened, she even asked me if we could take a picture together with us wearing our similar coats.

    I’ve bought repo from
    ShopNational.Com A favorite, This site may not be repo but vintage inspired. Some times I just need some well made vintage inspired clothing that I can toss into the washing machine and I get that from this site.
    LaPachuca.Com One thing I like about this site is known for making vintage inspired pants, shorts, and skirts custom made to fit you. Since its so hard for me to find vintage pants that fit petite sizes.
    Heartbreakerfashion.com For me I found there clothing either to small or to big there was no in between.
    BettiePage.Com This site is a favorite check the sale section for reduce prices, plus they donate some of their profits to stop animal cruelty.
    Nudeedudee on etsy
    Ebay.com (by name brand example stop staring or Bettie Page)
    bearflagrepublicusa.com
    RocketOriginals.co.uk

  15. I’ve personally dealt with Nicole Katherine Designs and it was one big mess. I messaged her asking which size to get, after giving her my measurements. She assured me I could go down a size because there was plenty of room in the hips. BS!! I could barely zip them up. So before leaving feedback I contacted her. All she would do was exchange it, but naturally I had to pay for shipping for HER mistake. I refused and kept the blasted jeans I got. I’m trying to sell them at the moment. But though I got her jeans on sale, it wasn’t worth her bad attitude and disregard of my satisfaction.

    The Fictionista
    {sean-mackenzie.blogspot.com}

    PS I didn’t mean for my comment to be so long. But I found your post through a repro clothing search and after I saw NKD name I couldn’t keep quiet.

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