Monday, July 9, 2012

True Value

Let's start with a little eye candy. Behold this exquisite 50's pink and black flocked taffeta party dress with zig-zag hem and ruffled shelf bust. Fabulous. Beautiful. We have a whole store full of beautiful dresses of this caliber.

Now for the nitty gritty. Let me warn you:  some of these images may be rather disturbing. The things you see below were taken from my actual closet. They are not props.

 I feel they are important to share because they reveal the truth about the current state of modern clothing. Most new clothing is being made and sold cheaper than ever before. Modern clothing has become a bit like toilet paper, use it once and then flush it down the toilet.

 I often wonder if we are going to have vintage clothing in the future. Twenty years from now will we be able to sell that $12 Forever 21 micro-fiber mini dress? Not likely...

 I decided to clean my closet the other day. I was shocked to discover the amount of crap I had. Wadded up tangles of faded black leggings, stretched out t-shirts and tank tops, bras with underwire poking through. A lot of these items had only been worn a couple of times but after being washed (in cold water mind you) had turned into fuzzy, pilled mountains of mush.

 Total money spent on these items? I would guess around $800.   Could I resell any of these items? Sadly, no. A Buffalo Exchange employee would laugh in my face if I brought this motley collection in. What did I do? I donated them.
                                                                      Case in point:

 My beloved black American Apparel Tee. After a couple of washes it has completely faded, the shape has been lost and the fabric has developed an almost velcro like ability to attract lint and animal hair. How much do you think Buffalo Exchange would give me for this item?

Really, I'm sorry you have to see this. This was an $88. Halogen (Nordstrom house label) black microfiber dress, that I wore maybe 4 times. Though it claimed to be machine washable in cold water this is how it turned out.  Look how gross it is! It's all stretched out, covered in fabric pills and hairs and would be promptly rejected by the resale market.

If you know me then you have undoubtably seen me in this dress. I have owned it for over 12 years now. It is from the early 60's and is made of a sturdy polished cotton. I have washed and worn it hundreds of times. Someone 50 years ago washed and wore this thing hundreds of times. It has yet to go completely out of style and say I decided to sell it today, I estimate I could probably get $125 for it.

Note the minimal appearance of animal hairs- and I live with a pomeranian and a persian:)

So my point is this: Vintage clothing is getting expensive. In lieu of new clothing getting cheaper and cheaper, the price of good vintage continues to climb. It's getting scarcer and scarcer. I can no longer breeze into the Goodwill and come out with a cart load of treasures. The Goodwill is now filled with Target and Walmart cast-offs. Here's the thing though, where is the value really? Are you really getting a great deal when you buy that trendy $18 poly dress from H&M that falls apart after you wash it? 
Is it something that you could wear for years and pass down to future generations? 
I'm not saying I don't wear new stuff. I do all the time.  I just think it's wise to invest in a few great vintage pieces and see how long they last you. And then when you're really tired of them come and sell them back to me:)

More examples: 

My 1960's wool leopard print Kimberly cardigan, purchased in 2001--worn and washed 100's of times.
My J.Crew black stretch cotton cardigan, purchased in May for 78. to wear on cruise. Washed once :(

                                   My somewhat more organized closet. Somewhat.

Examples of some good investment dresses:

1950's atomic print cotton day dress, waist 24". Sold.

50's cotton lilac day dress, waist size 26", 168. 

These 50's cotton dresses last forever! You can wear them and wash them and mend them and wear them again. They can retain and even increase in value over the years! At the risk of sounding really cheesy...Now, that's true value;)


  1. Never truer words spoken! I am constantly astounded at the beauty of your collection. I would love to own something from your store one day. :-D

    On the subject of things lasting - you are so right about those cotton 50's dresses. I have one, bought from Small Earth Vintage (Etsy) that I can tell was a favourite of the lady who owned it. It's autumnal tones of green & yellow cabbage roses, with tight pleats making a full skirt. I think it's handmade, and so soft from age. I've repaired it since I bought it because I've noticed that thread decays much faster than the actual fabric fibres. It's still got many many years of life left in it, and I'm not afraid to put it in the washing machine either!
    I can't do this with ANY of my "RTW" modern dresses (that I still own).

    Sadly because of the increasing cost of vintage, I've not bought all that much lately. I sew now using vintage patterns which is incredibly satisfying. But for those big 'event' garments, I'd still invest in a glamorous vintage dress. They are collectible like you say, and will last so long. :-D

    If only I could have Dita's budget, and I would "save" as much vintage as she does!

  2. Great post, and sadly, so very true! Give me vintage over the modern day stuff any day of the week!!

    BTW, that black dress is killer! Now if only I could lose some weight and fit into it!!!

  3. Haha so true. Clothes just arent what they use to be. I have yet to visit your store which is pretty much blaspheme since I'm a born and raised Oregonian.

  4. I completely agree with this. I'm trying to subscribe more to the cost-per-wear theory. Vintage is an investment that lasts - whereas the flimsy, trendy dresses I buy cheaply end up lasting for only a few wears.

  5. I love your blog. My name is Lucy and I am currently restoring a 50s dress, your blog helped me see a little more of 50s style! Thank you!