It’s been nearly ten years since I first discovered vintage fashion and the pin-up scene. It was love at first sight – finally, fashion that was suited to my figure! My extreme curves now even had a name (apparently, having a greater than ten inch difference between your hips and your waist is called a ‘vintage silhouette’) and even better, styles that suited them better than the skinny jeans and tank tops I was trying to fit into. I was in love.
I loved putting together gorgeous outfits, being perfectly coordinated, and wearing outfits that were wacky and totally off-centre. I would go to university classes in puffed sleeve shirts with bows on the cuffs, big circular skirts, drop waist dresses and corsets. I loved being the girl who was dressed like she was from the cast of Mad Men, like an extra from Underbelly: Razor, like she was going to a ball instead of a lecture. It was comforting to me, especially at a time when I was young, studying performing arts, and figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be.
Fast forward to now and the vintage/ pin up scene has blown up! The advent of smartphones and apps like Instagram means that the vintage fashion scene is so much more visible and accessible. The visibility has highlighted to me some troubling elements of the vintage scene. Firstly, it’s all about buying buying buying. The most popular pin ups have mammoth wardrobes that you never see them pull the same outfit from twice, and even more intimidating collections of shoes, headscarves, and jewellery. I honestly don’t know how they’re affording so many clothes – when I was big into the pin up scene, I bought most of my clothes from op shops and wore them until they fell apart. Secondly, there is a real division of people who wear reproduction vintage clothes (new clothes made in the style of old ones) and true vintage (actual items from the 1920s, 30s, 40s etc). Some girls who only wear true vintage can look down on people who wear repro. But true vintage is astronomically expensive, and can be very difficult to source, especially in countries like Australia, where people in past eras tended to wear their clothes out instead of save them.
I’ve always leaned towards vintage inspired pieces that have a classic silhouette, but could be from any time. I’d trawl op shops for nicely tailored button up shirts, voluminous skirts with nipped-in waists, and nice knitted cardigans. When I recently transitioned to my capsule wardrobe, I held on to my vintage silhouette basics, but let a lot of my more flamboyant pieces go.
It wasn’t a loss – for most of the pieces, it had been years since I’d worn them, they were ill-fitting, and had at least one hole. But having them in my wardrobe meant that I was still that girl who was head-turningly glamourous, perfectly overdressed, not afraid of getting odd looks walking down the street. I was crazy, confident, and classy. I was the seventeen-year-old finding herself for the first time.
Without those clothes? I’m still intelligent, committed, and hard working. I’m still creative and happy and confident. I just dress a little plainer. All of my clothes go together. I wear the same pair of shoes nearly every day. I own half a dozen accessories instead of hundreds. And I need to consistently remind myself that I am still worthy and beautiful. It’s been very difficult for me to feel like I am somebody, let alone a beautiful, independent women, without my vintage-looking armour to protect me. Our world places so much value on beauty, and uniqueness, and following the Instagram trends – even the offbeat ones. I may not be as comfortable with myself as I was when I had a neat little label to fit in to. But I’m getting there. And more importantly, I’m learning to value myself for myself, and not a trend, along the way.
Featured image: Les Anderson