It’s difficult to describe when I first got into vintage.
I remember being thrilled when elderly aunts would pass down sparkly jewellery (paste, not diamonds, so don’t get too excited) when I was barely into double figures.
In my pre-teens, I ‘appropriated’ several items from my mother’s wardrobe that she had worn during the 1970s – a pair of Levi’s 501s here, a CND hoodie there, as they got drawn back into the fashion cycle of the ‘90s.
But I realised the real beauty of vintage when a school friend (of whom I suffered almost terminal envy – she was athletic, artistic and gorgeous, I looked like a curiously arranged collection of potatoes – with spots) found a checked, hip length, original Biba coat that had once belonged to her mother in a box in her attic. Naturally, that became the most covetable item of clothing since man learned to weave.
Not long after dying of jealousy (roughly 1997, if I recall), I came across a sheepskin coat in a charity shop in a small town in West Wales and decided that the vintage aesthetic was now My Thing.
Vintage sheepskin duly purchased, I wore it daily (probably through summer) with pride. Add to that, a pair of Farah flat-fronted trousers I made my mother buy me to wear to school. I had read in Melody Maker or Q, or some such publication that this was what Jarvis Cocker favoured in the menswear department (I have no idea why I settled on him as a fashion icon either, so there isn’t much point in asking).
No matter that I looked like someone who had turned to second-hand car sales after being thrown out of a failing Britpop group; my wardrobe made me feel unique, which therefore meant that I must be standing out for all the right reasons. (I may have been incorrect here.)
My interest in vintage dwindled, and during the boom years of the ‘00s, I was drawn to the high street, where thanks to the influences of Christina Aguilera’s bottomless chaps, and the emerging emo scene, I followed an aesthetic that can only be described as ‘recently attacked with scissors’ for rather longer than I care to remember (though sadly can’t forget, thanks to a number of facial piercings).
My fashion journey turned back to vintage around ten years ago when I moved home to West Wales to study fashion design and textiles.
There were only a few high street shops and for those who had yet to discover internet shopping, the chance of wearing the same outfit as someone else was high. For me, charity shops and vintage were ways to stand out and be me.
Through my studies, the world of fashion history opened up to me and informed my style. I was privileged enough to see The Golden Age of Couture at the V&A – showcasing garments by Dior, Chanel and Schiaparelli, Norman Hartnell (think QEII’s wedding dress) and Hardy Amies between 1947 and 1957.
The outfits were exquisite, embodying the breakaway from post-war austerity with the ‘New Look’.
The big takeaway?
Clothes have the power to inspire, captivate, and change the world.
After this, I really began to put thought into what I wore, how it made me feel, and what I wanted it to say about me.
Freshly-inspired, I dedicated hours (and I mean hours), scouring eBay for vintage that would make me stand out from the crowd; from 60s shift-dresses in psychedelic prints to 80s garb with strong silhouettes and high-contrast colour blocking.
The aesthetics of the 90s (notably grunge and high-glam) had not yet begun to make a comeback, and if I look back now at the pieces I disregarded I would probably cry. Ignoring a Jean-Paul Gaultier kilt going for £10 on eBay will haunt me to the grave.
My wardrobe now is a mix of high street, online and vintage – with the odd sliver of designer, thanks to charity shops in London’s most affluent areas. And while I wouldn’t describe myself as having a fixed ‘look’ or classic style (it veers between Sicilian widow and 1980s children’s TV presenter on a bad trip), vintage has enabled me to feel unique, occasionally glamorous, and always comfortable in my own skin.
I hope that through this blog I can explain my journey through vintage in more detail and that you will come to love it as I do.