Fashion, by its nature, looks forward, and the constant “keep pushing and evolving” mentality of the industry means new looks and wow moments at every runway show, every year. It’s a little exhausting at times (not that I’m complaining.) There’s another side of fashion, though, that looks to the past: vintage wear. Vintage is fashion’s anchor to the waves of style that come and go. And indeed, certain pieces like the denim jacket remain in-style, while others—think JNCO jeans—are laid to rest and become caricatures of decades gone by, for better or for worse. Either way, true vintage always manages to stay in-style despite being, technically speaking, “out of style.” It’s an enticing facet of style to explore because it’s still so dated yet oh so chic. There’s no need to worry about following the new trends if you can incorporate your current wardrobe with something timeless. There are a million places to start, but if you’re just beginning to look at vintage wear, start by searching for classic, timeless pieces. Leather jackets and classic eyewear are a must. These classics are classics for a reason, and these items haven’t changed significantly in how they’re designed. That means a seamless transition from rack to wardrobe.
The Local Madison Market
Vintage wear does not necessarily mean thrift store finds, although often there’s a decent overlap between the two. That being said, there are two good options in Madison for your vintage fix, with my personal favorite being Good Style Shop on East Johnson St. Do yourself (and your Insta feed) a favor and follow their instagram. They’re exactly what a local store’s social feed should consist of; a steady rotation of pieces with prices, sizing info and links to buy. They even keep stock online so you don’t get duped. It’s hard to ask for anything more from a local shop.
If, somehow, you’re still looking for something else, there’s the classic Ragstock on State Street which has vintage, recycled and new clothes. They’re always a popular destination. Just be sure to check for imperfections in whatever you cop because, ultimately, the clothing you buy is ideally of high-quality, and shopping for vintage pieces requires that keen eye for quality and a ton of patience. That’s why it’s necessary to take your time when looking at a piece and actually inspect it thoroughly for quality and imperfections. Anything from holes to stains and even how long it looks like it’s been used can’t be glossed over. Basically, everything you should be doing when apartment-hunting – careful inspection, asking yourself questions – but always forget to. And, of course, the fit is of utmost importance. Lots of vintage pieces are rather inexpensive, so if you’re absolutely in love with a shirt but it’s a bit small, keep in mind that you can get it altered or tailored. Just don’t end up spending more than you budgeted if it isn’t worth it. Trust in known brands too, but ultimately don’t be afraid to branch outside of the comfort zone when it comes to an unknown label. Vintage is vintage for a reason.
Websites like eBay and Etsy are fantastic places to shop for vintage clothing online. Both have a vast amount of sellers and an even larger selection, and the advanced sorting features (size, color, gender, etc) take the element of chance out of the picture. It even allows searching for brand – which removes the large question mark of in-store shopping and finding something that fits. While the guesswork of the specific article might be eliminated, the seller’s reputation is always a point of conflict; return policies are sketchy and inconsistent. As such, always look at a seller’s reviews to see if they are reliable!
Ultimately, with the heavy influence of consumerism and fast-fashion engulfing our outfits (and wardrobes, and lives), it’s important to take a step back into the territory of sustainability and consider where you buy from, and that’s the perfect opportunity for vintage. Aside from the environmental benefits, wearing vintage is wearing history. It’s breathing new life into clothes that have been collecting dust on a shelf somewhere and using your own creativity by mixing them with modern pieces to make a personal, original look. Shopping vintage takes a little more effort than picking out something at the mall, but it is so worth it when your outfit is one of a kind.
Images: billwaldropdaylillies, eBay, Instagram (@goodstyleshop)