Vintage Vexations

Published:  August 29, 2010
Vintage Vexations

Back in The Day, when I was just a wee young thing with stars in my eyes about being a Famous Fashion Designer, I used to haunt all the thrift shops and vintage clothing dealers in Adelaide.  Vintage – and I mean anywhere from late 19th century to 1960s – was plentiful and it was cheap.  There was The Umbrella Room on Rundle Street,  Mabs’ Emporium wayyy down the end of Grenfell Street.  There were standard run-of-the-mill op shops in the south end of the CBD that sold truly divine 50s dresses for $2.  I LOVED them.  As a 17 year old, I would have long conversations with the owners of these Houses of Divineness about the downfall of fashion and how truly sad it was that women no longer wore hats and gloves to go out anymore.

I was pondering upon this today and on the demise of plentiful, cheap vintage stores, when an out-of-the-ordinary trip into the city led me past a small, put-baby-in-the-corner vintage boutique.  Vintage!  My heart skipped a beat!  Perhaps it has come full circle?

I stepped inside the unrenovated, heritage-listed building.  It is tiny.  Gorgeous clothing surrounds me.   A brooch from my childhood (Avon, contained solid perfume) is displayed on the counter.  There’s a 1960s mod mini dress; cotton 1950s shirtwaist dress; cornflower Blue 1950s tea dress.  Then I reached for the price tags.

Not one thing under $150.  The cute Tea Dress? $295. TWOHUNDREDANDNINETYFIVEDOLLARS!!!

Image copyright D Genevieve

Image copyright D Genevieve

Back in The Day I could (and did) buy such things for $5.  That the price of vintage clothing has increased by around 3000% in 20 years almost made me weep.  OK, so maybe I’m just a bit pre-menstrual, but there was real sadness there.  Sadness that our clothing history could now be so highly priced (as opposed to prized) as to make the true celebration of that history – the wearing of the clothes and the continuation of the style – virtually unattainable.

My 17 year-old self would have been devastated.  This elevation of what is ostensibly second-hand clothing beyond the reach of ordinary people has become, I think,  the real downfall of fashion.

Thumbnail image: Original source

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