If you ask my friends what the most memorable thing about me is, one of the things they will mention is my dress sense. In this post, I’ll be talking about how and why that came to be, another Angie Moon: Origins kind of story. Be prepared for some rambling.
What inspired me to write this post was this documentary that’s on Netflix (at the time of writing this post) called The True Cost. It really got me thinking about the topic of ethics in other things we consume or buy. I’m all about ethical food, but what about clothing?
The story of my love of vintage
I started wearing vintage clothing back in my first year of university because not only did I want to have a playlist full of old music, I wanted to dress like how they did back then. Over the last 6 years, I’ve amassed a closet full of dresses from the time period.
My mentality back when I was 18-20 was “I was born in the wrong generation” and I can admit now that I was a bit cringey. As far as I know, I didn’t end up in /r/lewronggeneration, but I would have been a good candidate for it with my constant wishing I could see my favourite bands in their prime and shop for clothes in Swinging London.
In a sea full of people in fast fashion, I stood out and looked a bit strange: looking like a teenager who raided grandma’s closet. An interesting concept.
I was a tiny 5’6″ and 7.5 stone, flat chested, au naturel #nomakeup face, and my face generally looked young in the first place. Combine this with vintage clothing and the description above starts to make sense.
When my family went to buffets, they’d pass me off as a 12 year old so they could pay the lower price, even when I was 18. We’d go to this place often enough, I’m surprised they never asked, “How long have you been 12 for?”
Some people didn’t like my dress sense and would say that it looks a bit old on me, but for the most part, I am told nice things. The most memorable compliment was when I was walking around Melbourne with my husband and my friend, Fei and this one person stopped me and said that I looked like one of her friends in the 70s.
To this day I still love to shop vintage. I try not to buy from fast fashion shops. The only things I’ll buy from there now are basics like socks, tights, and leggings.
I don’t fault anyone for shopping fast fashion or cheap stores that use sweatshop labour. Sometimes Wal Mart or Primark is all you can afford and the ethical options are too expensive. However, I think it’s important that we all do what we can to make the world a better place and think about our consumption habits.
Why I shop vintage/secondhand
Here, I’m going to outline the reasons I shop vintage and secondhand.
1. Better for people
We live in a globalised world. There are some great things about it. Travelling is cheaper now than 50 years ago. You can make friends all over the world who you wouldn’t have otherwise met thanks to the internet. You can learn about different cultures more easily thanks to the internet.
However, there are some bad things like labour issues. Corporations are greedy and they’ve offshored production. It costs less to manufacture overseas, even factoring in shipping costs, and with the internet, it’s easier to offshore than ever before. It’s an email away rather than an expensive phone call away.
In the 60s and 70s, most clothing in the US was domestically made and many garment workers were unionised, but this meant the air around you was polluted. Offshoring meant these workers lost their union jobs and the pollution didn’t go away, it was one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things – instead of factories polluting your neighbourhood, that was happening overseas and those clothes have to make a long journey.
The workers sewing clothing for these fast fashion shops and places like Wal Mart and Target aren’t treated well. They work long hours for not much money. There’s no overtime, sick pay, vacation time, subsidised day care, health care, etc. These workers can’t just simply quit. There are not many options in the first place.
The factories get hot and the buildings are often in disrepair. What vetting is there for these factories?
If possible, try to buy domestically made to support jobs in your country and it’s better for the environment since the clothes don’t have to be shipped across an ocean, which leads me to the next point.
2. Better for the environment
People get rid of clothing all the time: because they’re moving or downsizing, gained weight, lost weight, don’t wear those clothes anymore, bought on impulse and never wore it, or they’re selling them because they need money. Sometimes the clothing is gently used or not even worn, still having tags.
Fast fashion chains bring in new stuff all the time, so it’s very hard to keep up and this “buy now” attitude encourages people to impulse buy clothes because they’ll be gone the next day.
Imagine if we threw out all the clothing we don’t use anymore. That’s a lot of waste! In the United States, over 15 million tonnes of used textile waste is generated every year. In Australia, 6,000kg of clothing is thrown in landfills every 10 minutes.
Textiles can be recycled, as seen with upcycled clothing lines, where they take used clothing and fabric, sew them into new garments, and give them new life.
The sad thing is a lot of clothing donated to charity shops doesn’t make it into the shop. Instead, it sits in a warehouse, waiting to be taken to a landfill or to a developing country. When these clothes are taken to developing countries, it kills the local garment industries there, which is why these buy one give one products aren’t good.
A lot of times I find vintage clothing to be of better quality and a lot of shops’ quality has gone down. For example, I’ve compared jeans I bought from the same shop over the years and the older jeans were much more durable.
When you buy used clothing, you give the clothing a new life and a new home and it’s saved from being in a landfill. New clothing (for example, cotton) requires a lot of water and pesticides.
3. It looks better
Now this one is subjective and depends on your taste. I like clothing from the 60s and 70s best and today’s stuff mostly doesn’t look like that. I often can’t find any bell bottoms, ruffly shirts, floral and paisley patterns, and the kinds of dresses I like.
I could go to Free People to find those kinds of things, but the clothes are cut too straight up and down shaped, the fabric isn’t thick enough, and the quality just doesn’t match the high price tag.
A lot of today’s trends are throwbacks to the 80s, 90s, and the 2000s. Wait! The 2000s is now throwback? It only seems like yesterday that people were wearing rhinestone this, Ed Hardy and Von Dutch that.
Another plus is that it’s unique and you can stand out. Only on rare occasions have I seen multiples of the same vintage dress, and that’s either because the person’s a collector or it’s deadstock (unworn vintage that still has the tag on it).
4. Can save money
When I do find reproduction clothing that looks just like clothing from my favourite decades, it’s almost always way more expensive than buying vintage. These dresses will cost at least 100 euro, which is a lot. That’s about what I spent on my wedding dress, and that’s cheap for a wedding dress. The one I wore for renewing my vows was less than $100 and it was a 70s Gunne Sax dress. Not a bad price considering that it’s Gunne Sax, often those can go for hundreds of dollars.
When the price is right (aka when there’s a sale), I’m happy to buy reproduction and I do have a lot of reproduction stuff. I’ve even seen some custom made dresses for less than $100.
While I buy a lot of my vintage clothing online, because I don’t have a great selection of vintage or charity shops around me, there’s really nothing like going into a vintage shop or charity shop and finding stuff you like.
Going thrifting is a great way to kill the time. My mum used to take me and my brother to the thrift shop from time to time. I didn’t appreciate it then, but now I do and I’m the one begging my family to take me to the thrift shop.
You can’t beat the spontaneity of a vintage or charity shop (and for the classic rock fans, the record store). It’s a lot like a lucky dip, you never know what you’ll find. Or when you’re listening to the radio and the DJ plays your favourite song. Feels a lot better than when you queue it up on your playlist.
The problem with this though is I experience way more FOMO with secondhand shopping than in mall shops. Because there’s usually only one of that garment and you might not find anything like it ever again. But I think it’s important to keep in mind that there will be another item you like. So don’t buy anything unless you really want it.
Takes a lot of patience, but when you find an item you really like, it’s worth it.
So these are my reasons why I love shopping secondhand. What are your reasons?
Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog.
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