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Vintage Fashion: A Wardrobe of Hidden Histories

Crafting an outfit can be a form of art, a ritual of creative selection and self-expression. How will you present yourself that day, what energy would you like to embody, how can your wardrobe facilitate capturing who you are or want to be?

Clothes not only have utility but intrinsic value as forms of self-expression and a way of understanding yourself through your fashion choices. It makes sense then, that an important choice is what we will wear. This outfit selection can be as subtle or as captivating as you want depending on how you feel that day. Having the right clothes for the right mood can be critical.

Shopping vintage or second-hand offers the ability to find that right item to complete the look and is an alternative to the over-saturation of high street fashion brands and fast fashion, the latter having damaging consequences for the environment.

Vintage clothes can be more affordable in price point and a more sustainable shopping practice. Shopping vintage also limits the amount of choice of clothes. What to buy becomes a more thoughtful process and allows you to incorporate something more unusual and unique into your wardrobe as well as being more environmentally minded.

Enter a vintage shop and find yourself exploring a carefully curated selection of second-hand clothes. A common practice in a vintage shop to rely on is the clothes within have been chosen for being different in some way, a relic from a past collection, era or discontinued designer. ‘Vintage’ is also a means of re-branding second-hand to transform the clothes to become more appealing to the customer but does often go with a stigma against the ownership of clothes that once belonged to someone else.

However, a significant difference between vintage and off-the-rail is no item is the same. So not only are you contributing to a more ethical business but also gaining a unique item as well.

Shopping in vintage stores has been a process. With an ever-evolving sense of style, as I myself evolve and change, the choices in what to buy has become more selective. I now love wearing clothes with a personal touch or hidden history. By shopping vintage, I can update and transform my wardrobe in a more loving and thoughtful way, buying items that weren’t related to trends and had a timeless quality.

How well they fit, how they looked, whether I found them beautiful and if I loved them mattered more.

I’ve never given much thought to the past of the items I’ve bought, as it no longer mattered who owned them before but the meaning and history I can give them once bought. They carry new stories, such as finding a Burberry woolen top and rainbow crochet bucket hat in a thrift store in Tokyo or unexpectedly finding a pair of woolen, silk-lined orange tartan trousers in a vintage shop in my hometown of Sheffield that fit like a dream. Instead of wearing a mass-produced copy, I can wear a memory of a past adventure.

Hand-me-down clothes are another way of contributing to a unique, personal, richly textured and vibrant style. I love the stories they can carry. My favourite clothes weren’t bought or chosen but given as gifts by my sister. They include a leopard print knitted jumper she wore riding on the back of motorbikes studying in Berlin and a midi skirt with red leopard print detail over grey gradient worn in Portland, Oregon, will dipping in and out of dive bars. I can share these stories and create new ones.

Certainly, an important point to remember about vintage shopping is how sustainable it is. Fast fashion is on a fast track to become a leading force in the growing climate crisis, in its polluting factories, human-rights defying work practices and burning of unused clothing.

If you think about all four weather seasons, as well as the sub seasons that high-street brands include, that’s a huge range of new clothes every year. And when a plethora of incredible, unique clothes already exists, it feels like a waste of exciting opportunities to try something new and express your most creative self.

Clothes should last as long as they have use and by shopping vintage, clothes bought have already stood the test of time and allow that ability to stand out and let an extraordinary artistic vision shine. Whether you want to contribute positively to the changing landscape of fashion or explore what clothes have the possibility to express, I recommend an adventure into the depths of your closest vintage shop. 


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