Unique Pieces from THE Century of Chic
Historical Context, Restoration & Preservation
Judgment Free Fashion: We were born this way!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Never Pay Retail (figures in less w/ demand increasing for scarce goods)
People are attracted to Vintage for a myriad of reasons. The shops we frequent run the gamut from thrift to “buzz me into your mini-Bergdorf’s.” Unlike most retail, any variety of personality can be found on both sides of the counter. Perhaps you want a classic black and tan 50’s t-strap pump or maybe you’re a glitter, grape, thigh-high boot from the 70’s? All are welcome from Babe Paley to Cyndi Lauper.
For me, it has been a 30-year process of deeper appreciation. My initial interest was the ability for me to decide what I would look like, not The Gap. Then once I saw a $2 price tag, it appealed to my “I can get it for you wholesale” sensibility. I became a “bargain shopper.” These continue to be 2 of the more traditional reasons. However, now in the 21st Century, my bag is the “one of a kind” factor.
I call it, “The Poor Girl’s Couture.” Like true couture, there’s only one and chances are, it’s better made than any Ready to Wear produced today. Although the quick succession of the two World Wars & The Great Depression devastated the world, it also drove millions to our shores. 20th Century American history is a living testament to the Blessing in Disguise.
This leads us to my 2nd draw, History. We fail to remember how The Union Label represented a profuse amount of expert European tailors, textile manufacturers & designers. Although The Garment District was well established due the manufacturing & business skills brought by the 1st great wave of immigrants in the 1850’s, it was the 2nd great wave in the 1st half of the 20th century who brought craftsmanship and style. The quality was top drawer and yet affordable, beauty sans ego. In Europe, it was “fine tailoring” w/ a nose in the air and a tea pinky to follow. In NYC, we affectionately called it The Schmatte Business <SHa-matta> aka The Rag Trade. Many of us still do, with great pride & a touch of irony.
It was no different with jewelers. From the teens through the early 60’s, the majority of American costume jewelers were fine jewelers who worked for Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, etc. while still in Europe. Some of them “transferred” here from the Place Vendôme losing everything in the depression but most came with zip. Gold has and always will be COD so they wandered down from 47th St to 7th Ave and thus, our blessing in disguise.
From head to toe these new Americans took their fine skills and put them to the exact use they would have prior to emigration. Shoes were handmade on lasts carved by the shoemaker himself. Swarovski made custom cuts and colors for the demanding jewelers, which they set as if they were rubies and pearls. They never cut corners simply because they had no idea how. This is how history crafted The Garment District, which for nearly 100 years dominated the world’s manufacturing and rivaled the French and Italian industries. Sadly, that glory has faded.
We have faltered for 3 decades in an era of disposability. We shop in massive stores packed with carelessly made clothing simply because it’s cheap. We ignore the how & why as we watch The Garment District shrink. We no longer acknowledge the rewards found in the delayed gratification of only spending our hard earned money on the best one can afford & then caring lovingly for it. This is why I’m no longer a steely focused bargain shopper.
For me, the desire to save old things, restore them and preserve their history has long ago surpassed what it says on the price tag.
Couture du Jour has:
- Matched colors to re-dye the half faded.
- Darned like mad.
- Restored delicate materials like lace, netting, chiffon & tulle, often adding support to the inside of the garment to prevent any further damage.
- Broken down and re-sewn garments due to deteriorating thread.
Preservation has a much younger sister in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle movement. Like the Tiny House trend against McMansions, there is a 2nd hand movement afoot. From The Duggars to Berkeley moms, people are committing to only buying new when necessary. The Great Recession has pushed it to the forefront making it more palpable. Suddenly people who never would have bought something “used” are sponsoring Clothing Swaps! This is a well-crafted, thoughtful concept much grander than simply stepping out of the “keeping up” line. When more and more people choose Mom & Pop shops and charity thrift stores while also eschewing “Made in China,” the more American our economy. It keeps the dollars at home and still generates tax dollars through Sale’s Tax and the income tax of those in charge. It’s the economic version of DIY. You can’t get more American than that!