“I love that every dress, every bag, every scarf has a story that it would tell, if only it were able, and that I’m adding a chapter to that story. No modern item has ever made me feel as elegant or unique as a vintage one. Quite simply, vintage has magic.”
This quote from the introduction sums up much of what attracted me to vintage clothing myself, which put me in a good mind to enjoy this book from the start, having been given it as a gift from my mother in law (isn’t it nice to have relatives who know and appreciate the things you like?)
This is a rather lovely little book that focuses not as much on the detail of fashion history as on being a succinct introduction to wearing vintage for those just starting to get interested in it. I wish this had been published ten years ago when I was just starting to get into vintage clothes myself, as it makes for a very accessible introduction with some very helpful advice for beginners.
The book provides a short and succinct introduction to each decade from the 1920s to the 1980s, highlighting key trends in ‘shopping lists’ for each. It’s beautifully designed and illustrated, with modern photographs of day and evening ensembles for each era. I particularly like that the book uses real vintage enthusiasts as it’s models instead of professionals – the ladies displaying the clothes will be familiar to anyone who likes to read a lot of blogs about vintage. One of the great things about the vintage scene is that it inherently celebrates all shapes and sizes of women (since different eras had different ‘ideals’ of what the female body should look like) instead of the constant onslaught of skinny size zero models that modern fashion world pushes onto us. The ladies featured all look completely gorgeous in their outfits, but I think the fact they are all not just models but real women who wear these clothes day to day themselves helps to emphasise to the new comer how accessible vintage fashion really is.
The amount of information on each era is limited, which is sensible given the amount of very detailed fashion history books out there, and as the author says “Learning to date vintage is like learning a language. After a good while of looking at many styles, stitches and patterns, buttons and prints, it just clicks.” She’s entirely right – reading, research, looking at, touching and feeling vintage clothing over a period of time is the only way to get that kind of knowledge and confidence about what you’re buying. This book just provides a simple and accessible starting point for the new comer. Where the book is more useful is in it’s other sections, which include pages on what vintage is, dating vintage, tips for buying vintage, wearing the right underwear, where to shop and so forth. I thought the sections on how to get into vintage clothes (literally) and how to repair and maintain vintage particularly good – if only I’d had the advice here on getting into vintage clothes ten years ago, before a few awkward experiences getting ‘stuck’ in clothes taught me these lessons by experience!
Although this is a book primarily for new comers, there are still a few things of interest for those of us who’ve been into vintage a little longer. There are some great quotes scattered throughout – my favourite being one from Yves Saint Laurent: “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it’. There are also a couple of things I didn’t know – such as using a spritz of vodka to refresh the armpits of garments that can’t be washed, and that the term bikini comes from Bikini Atoll, a nuclear bomb testing site (how I missed this one, I don’t know, but it shows there’s always more to learn about fashion history, which is what keeps it interesting…)
The one real critique I would have is that the recommended readings ection only includes links to websites and blogs – many of them very good ones for sure – but for someone starting to get interested in vintage fashion, it might have been nice if there had been a list of other useful books on fashion history (although I suppose the publishers may have been unkeen on promoting other books here). Beyond that, this will be a great little book to lend out to/ recommend/give to friends that come and ask me where to start as they begin browsing vintage clothing.
There are two other books in the same series – one on hair and one on make-up, both of which I’m now quite keen to get hold of;