While reading this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, I laughed a little over a story called, “The One That Got Away,” about shopping for past-season, but not-officially-vintage fashion on Yoox, eBay, and a number of recently launched pre-owned clothing sites. In particular, these two sentences amused me:
“Buying clothes in this way, however, requires a change in perspective. It’s about judging a piece solely by how much you love it, not by how current it is.”
I was like, “O RLY?” because that seems a bit obvious. Imagine! Buying things because you love them regardless of what’s in the stores right now! As if I had ever bought anything that I hadn’t loved (whether or not the item in question was deserving of that love is another story, of course). But then I got off my high horse because I realized that there’s another angle to the Wall Street Journal’s point: Not only should you buy clothes this way, but you should keep them this way too. And that’s something I learned only after I had the opportunity to start shopping previous-season sample sales and vintage and consignment stores in the early 1990s. As soon as I started buying old clothes, it dawned on me that it was foolish to get rid of any interesting, few-years-old clothes that I already owned, lest I wind up buying them back later as “vintage.” So, instead, I tossed that tedious closet-purging rule that says you should get rid of anything — no matter how fabulous — that hasn’t been worn in a mere 12 months. I wrote about this in a 2010 post called, “Grow Your Own Vintage by Breaking the Rules,” in which I said that there’s no need to banish:
“…beautifully made and still-flattering (key qualifier!) clothes that have the misfortune of being ‘last season’ — that no-woman’s land between ‘new’ and ‘vintage.’ I never think ‘last season.’ I think ‘future vintage.'”
And that’s how I ended up keeping my ruffled baseball vest from Byron Lars‘s headline-making collection after it went unworn for 12 years. It’s now back in rotation.
It took me even longer to learn to buy the most distinctive pieces from a collection. For years, I bought the basic, black version of any design, because of the theory that if you wear all black everything, no one can tell how old anything is and how often you wear it. You also end up with a very bland wardrobe that way. My first, cautious purchase of my favorite vintage designer, Ossie Clark, was a black halter dress; now I won’t buy any Ossies without a signature Celia Birtwell print. I realized that there was no point in wearing an Ossie at all if it wasn’t the Ossie-est piece I could get.
Sure, I’ve got the essential LBDs and black t-shirts galore. Some basics are essential, but nothing but basics is boring. And after a couple of years, is anyone besides a Conde Nast editor going to remember which season this magazine-covering striped Prada dress is from? Why would anyone’s memory matter to me anyway?
One dress that I might have once gotten rid of for being both too distinctive and unworn too long is my leopard-print Diane von Furstenberg dress. I wore it to my sister’s pre-wedding dinner in 2002.
I put it aside for at least five years, but now it’s my go-to dress for all sorts of occasions, including the 2010 debut of my jewelry on the big screen in Sex and the City 2.
Last night, I wore it again to a dinner for an non-profit organization that MrB works with.
What Wendy Wore:
Dress: DVF (2002)
Shoes: Prada (2010)
Purse: Louis Vuitton (2001)
Jewelry: All my own designs
Much more fun than a BBD (boring black dress), right?
Check out the WSJ article, which I linked to above, for a list of non-eBay sources for past-season shopping. I’ve been seeing articles like this everywhere, which I attribute to Vaunte.com. Two of the co-founders of Vaunte were part of the original Gilt Groupe team, and the press is absolutely drooling over their new venture. Wipe your mouths, press people! Your saliva is getting all over my vintage wardrobe.
UPDATED TO ADD: Linked this up to Not Dead Yet Style’s Visible Monday post. Check out all the other ladies there!