Friday, February 4, 2011

New York Times Discovers Existence of Repro Vintage

Repro Dress from Stop Staring!
Peter sent me this fascinating article yesterday, with strict orders that I must blog about it. Your wish is my command, captain!

"This Old Thing? Actually, It's New" takes a look a various women who love retro style but tend to wear more current reproduction pieces rather than vintage. This revelation comes as no surprise to me, since I'm a retro-lover who's only owned a few pieces of true vintage clothing. Before I started sewing my clothes, I would rely on retro-fied styles at chains like Anthropologie and Banana Republic to fake a vintage look, along with a healthy topping of actual vintage costume jewelry. Why? One word: fit. Vintage clothes are generally tiny enough that it makes the shopping experience frustrating rather than enjoyable to me. The NYT article acknowledges this challenge as a reason to seek out repro pieces, as well as several others: musty smells, weird holes and stains, and other "charms" of vintage clothing. (Sadly, it doesn't make the leap that some women may choose to sew their own vintage styles as an alternative.)

On the other side of the coin, the article looks at the vintage snob: she who turns her nose up at reproduction clothing. ("Some purists sniff, if not sneer, at the trend.") I think anyone who loves retro is surely familiar with this particular brand of pretension.

But what really interested me was the tone of the piece. The writer sets up repro vintage as a current trend, while interviewing the proprietress of Stop Staring!, who's been selling it for 13 years. They also interview a woman who asks if vintage call really be a trend, since the point is to look timeless. (I'm sure we could go around and around in circles on that discussion!)

The article also briefly dips into the territory of gender relations and retro clothing (which I've discussed here as well):
Ms. von Firley’s hair is cut in a 1920s style Dutch bob, and she is rarely seen in an outfit that isn’t vintage or reproduction vintage. “Men treat me differently when I wear vintage or something that looks vintage,” she said. “I’ve noticed that they open doors and even apologize when they swear, which is so not the case when I’m wearing regular clothes like pants and a sweater.”
Others who wear reproduction fashions said they had similarly enjoyed increased chivalry.
Overall, the article is a bit all over the place, as it frenetically tries to decide whether it's a trend piece or a bit of social commentary. Perhaps a more telling slant would have been what, if any, changes are made in the reproduction process. Are the pieces inspired by actual vintage finds? I find it fascinating that repro vintage can start to take on a look of its own, one that's pure mash-up rather than true homage.

Anyway, it's quite an interesting topic to retro-loving seamstresses, I think. After all, we specialize in reproduction! I'm sure some of us would qualify as purists (those who use vintage everything, right down to their notions), while others of us (myself included) make use of vintage patterns, but are more about using contemporary materials to get a retro look.

What is your take on vintage reproduction: old news or a timely trend? Do you consider yourself a purist or a reproducer? Or perhaps something else all together?


  1. Old news! But I have noticed allot more celbs wearing them.

    You have to be careful with repo, sometimes the only similarity is that it looks vintage, the fabric and thw quality my be cheap and modern.

    I m not going to name names, but I have admired this certain States bases repo label for years and years. I pinned over the images online. Never had the cash to purchase. I actualy copied some of the styles :)

    But when i finaly saw label for sale in a UK boutique, I was angered and up-set that the fabric is shiney polyester, the stitching was cheap looking. It certainly wasnt worth £100!!

    I was glad that I had made my own verson for a mear fraction of the price!!!

  2. I think these are very good points/questions, I for one would love to have the commitment it takes to be a purist but I'm just not built that way, in size/fit or mind. When I see purists around I always stare as the result is amazing down to the tiny details and perfect lip stick. I think I will always be a reproduction girl as I have what I can only describe as greedy eyes and if I see a cut or fabric I like (of which there is a wide variety) then I'm not going to let the fact it doesn't fit in with one era or look stop me.
    Michaela xx

  3. I think it's repro has been around for awhile, but it definitely is becoming a trend. It was as predominate in main stream fashion until the last couple of years.

    I actually prefer repro to actual vintage. I don't worry about wearing repro while I clean my flat or if I go in a mosh pit at a show. I would never wear vintage to do stuff like that for fear of damaging it.

    I also like that repros are designed to fit with modern undergarments. I love that I can wear 50s style dresses and skirts without having to wear a girdle.

    And when it comes to making my own repros, I'm mostly knitting and I love that I can take modern short cuts like working seamless set in sleeves. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't apply modern techniques to vintage patterns. I have the benefit of having all the knowledge from the period between when the design was created and when I make the item. It seems like a waste to ignore that info for the sake of authenticity.

  4. I think repro is both old news and a new trend. It's old news for people in the community, but new for those not in the community. I don't sew my own because I'm a purist. I sew my own for the same reason I sew my own modern-styled clothing, great fit and quality at affordable prices. I have bought a couple Stop Staring! dresses and they were both awful poly double knit. While they looked cute, they were hot in the summer and chilly in the winter. I would wear vintage if I could find some that fits, but while Lane Bryant has been around for nearly 100 years, their vintage clothes are hard to come by.

  5. I'm somewhere in between. I loving wearing true vintage and do so often, I also like sewing vintage patterns. I don't buy much RTW so repros are not something I even think about. Although I believe the vintage trend has been around forever, I think the show Mad Men has had an influence on the 50's 60's trend.

  6. Can't resist a crack: the picture of the blue dress, captioned that repro fits curves---doesn't appear to fit very well?

  7. I would love to dress in pure vintage but as others have commented, I do not have the body. It is hard enough finding modern clothing much less something my grandmother wore. Funny, my grandmother was a curvier type of gal, too, so I wonder what happened to her clothing. Maybe we just wear our out faster? LOL. Also, I am a bonified housewife and part of my job is to keep our household on budget with one income. My hubbie provides well for us but I can not routinely pay what some of the true vintage pieces are going for....and I have not found much at the thrift stores.

    Is it a trend? Maybe more are noticing vintage styles because of shows like Mad Men? I have been a retro kind of gal for a long time....but not because of Mad Men but growing up watching Donna Reed and Patty Duke reruns. I go thru my own trends, sometimes I want to dress like Donna Reed in a smart house-dress....sometimes in butt cupping capris like Laura Petrie...sometimes I am a beatnik like Maynard from the Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Luckily I can create my own clothing in these styles, find pieces from modern lines that work, or buy a complete repro of a late 50s / early 60s style.

  8. At the risk of sounding like a total snark: oh yay! The Times finally "discovered" vintage reproductions so it's legit now! rofl. (Sorry, I couldn't resist that little jab... I cannot count how many times I've seen a similarly titled article in the past few years!) I'm with Andrea on this: it's old, old news to those of us who have been hanging out in the vintage circles (and like you pointed out, Stop Staring has been around for over a decade along with lines like reVamp, etc.), but it's trendy in the mainstream fashion world right now. I dare say give it a couple years and it'll fade a bit back into obscurity and more of a fringe thing. The nice thing about it being trendy, though, is that those of us who gravitate towards vintage/retro styles have more options and selection than before. Yay! There is definitely no complaining from this gal! ;)

    I have to admit that all I can think about with this current surge in popularity of vintage reproductions is the late 90s trend for Edwardian/Titanic inspired pieces. Who can forget all the Louis XIV heels on shoes and Edwardian style jewelry? (And lines like J. Peterman made a killing on the Titanic trend.) Suddenly clothing and styles from that time became wildly popular (fitting right in with the overall preoccupation with "romantic gothic" that parts of the fashion world was into then), and then faded away just as quickly in the early '00s.

    I'm a weird mash-up of wearing reproduction pieces I make myself and owning a lot of vintage. I have been able to find quite a few pieces that fit well (though it's taken years of slowly acquiring things!), but at the same time there are styles and certain garments that I can either not find a decent vintage option or cannot afford. So sewing my own, vintage-inspired reproductions is the only answer. Plus the fit of things like trousers and such is far better when I sew for myself than buy the actual vintage piece. In a lot of ways though, it really boils down to economy and longevity for me with reproductions. I can make a simple dress somewhat cheaper than the actual vintage can be had, and by using newer materials it's guaranteed to last a bit longer and I don't have to worry about "ruining" a vintage piece/fabric/supplies. I adore gals who are in the purist camp, but aside from constraints of time to source things and budget, I also suffer from fashion ADD. lol.

    ♥ Casey

  9. I'm not a purist when sewing (sergers and interlocked jersey are great!) but I do like to keep the period aesthetics in mind. All styles and cuts are meant to create a certain look, and while I like to adjust fit and model so that for exampel a dress works with modern underwear, I would not raise a below-knee skirt to above the knees.

    It seems the purist/repro discussion is an eternal one. In my medieval society there's the same thing: some people re-create with the thought "this looks cool", and others will sneer at you for not having a 100% handsewn dress. People can get very worked up about this!
    I've learned that I'm a lot happier if I just decide for myself what my aspirations are, and don't judge anyone elses. Really, why bother to get all worked up about someone else's taste? And this works just as well with vintage clothes as with medieval =) I enjoy the pieces that are to my taste and ignore the rest.

  10. Hmm--didn't know I was ahead of the trend--by 30 years! I've been wearing vintage off and on for that long at least! And I've been putting period touches on 'regular' clothes for about that long as well.

  11. I'm really happy that vintage reproductions have gotten trendy (for the time being) enough for the NYT to notice it... because that means more options for me!
    It would be fun to be a vintage "purist," but I like being able to find an item in my size, without stains and that I don't worry about wearing (some of my vintage items from the 1950s and earlier are extremely fragile and have begun to disintegrate).
    I purchased a lovely dress from Trashy Diva. It was expensive (more than I usually spend on a vintage dress) and I know it's not one of a kind, but it's well-made and, even though it's "trendy" now, still unique and offbeat compared to most mainstream styles.

  12. I love looking at actual vintage, but it definitely has its challenges. I'm not a stick and I often worry about ruining my precious garments.

    I only have one repo garment and its design was based off of a dress from a period film. But I definitely think you need to be selective with respect to quality and design.

    Since I've fallen in love with sewing, this option has been my favorite. It takes a lot of effort, but it's fun and I don't have to worry about ruining them.

  13. I'm all for the mash-up mix! Although I would actually like to be a vintage purist, my wardrobe doesn't allow it, so my day-to-day look is generally a "vintage inspired" one.

    I actually find myself thinking about the differences between actual vintage and most vintage repro designs quite often (usually whenever I'm browsing a vintage repro online store). Vintage repros are almost always a rose-tinted or stylised version of what was really going on - after all, how many people actually wore a poodle skirt? If they were as numerous in real life as they are in the popular imagination they'd turn up more often! The wiggle skirt is another example - modern versions of the 1950s slim skirt are usually based on the image of the 50s skirt rather than the patterns, and so are sometimes slightly tapered towards the hem, while original 50s patterns are either straight or slightly flared from the hips (the one I finished recently had a hem circumference of something like 45"). Skirts and shorts are often slightly shorter than their original vintage counterparts, too. And of course polyester is ubiquitous - most of the vintage repro brands I can think of use it (although to be fair it's hard not to - I've tried really, really hard to find modern rayons and it's nigh impossible).

    I actually don't own any "official" vintage repro - all my new stuff is high street or charity shop. This is partly because repro is often more expensive than the real thing, and partly that I almost feel that wearing vintage repro shows a lack of imagination. For me, anyway - I'm not going to judge anyone who wears it - but it feels like the 'easy option'. Although having said that I'm very tempted by Heyday's (polyester mix) 1940s high waist trousers.

  14. this comment is about chivalry. i have to say i live in NYC, i don't dress retro and i am regularly, not always, but regulary confronted by chivalrous acts, regardless of how i'm dressed. doors are held open, i'm given the right of way and men have excused themselves for cursing in front of me on more than one occassion. honestly i think this idea that how your dressed reflects how your treated is (mostly) a projection. i'm not discounting it completley, but it just seems overstated. sorry, i'm just tired of hearing this over and over again.

  15. I've always disliked most "name brand" vintage reproduction clothing for the exact reason that others have mentioned: The quality of the fabric and construction don't come anywhere close to the original garments that they are trying to reproduce.

    I have a small collection of 40's/50's vintage dresses that I bought when I was in high school. (not that they are vintage from when I was in high school, but that I purchased them as vintage while in high school in the late 80's)

    I know first hand what well constructed vintage clothing looks and feels like. I don't care how much easier it is to wash, and how much less one needs to "worry" about it - a dress made out of polyester satin, cut to fit with modern undergarments, "tailored" to work with standardized arbitrary sizes, is never going to look or fit like the original.

    I don't begrudge the modernized cut, but that, on top of poor fabric selection AND poor fit makes me have a strong distaste for mass produced vintage repros. As a home sewer, if/when I make a vintage repro, I absolutely use the high quality material I can afford, and one that as closely as possible replicates the original intended fabric of the garment.

  16. I would agree on repro being old news, but in the trend-picture now, maybe boosted by MadMen. The availability seems to have increased, especially the repro clothing (although cheap fabrics, poos stitching and too costly). I like having the availability for inspiration, and I don't own many repro's (I have two dresses from Vivien of Holloway, but I must say that the quality of that brand is good).

    I could never manage to do a pure vintage style, and I don't think I would want to either. I love the possibilities when 'just' being vintage inspired. I can mix as I like!

  17. I don't think repro vintage is new, but it gets much more attention lately. Along with vintage inspiration in high fashion, a large, generally 'trend-following' audience now finds its way to repro vintage. However, I absolutely agree that it's becoming a separate thing altogether. Often, you'll find stores labeling any full-skirted frock as '50's repro' and a lot of repro dresses have much shorter skirts than any period piece (of any era prior to the 1960's) could have had.

    I don't think it's bad that the 'repro industry' adepts to the looks we're used to now. After all, they're in bussiness. However, I'm not that keen on buying that kind of stuff. Also because a lot of it is not that well made.

    Personally, I occasionally browse vintage stores hoping to find some 'diamond in the rough'. Some slightly damaged, too small for most people piece which was once home made or carries a tag with name nobody recognises. I find some and if, for all the reasons mentioned above, it's cheap, I'll buy it.
    I usually sew for myself. I'll borrow elements from vintage clothes (which I usually only know from drawings or photographs) on occasion. Because I make my own patterns, I like to play around with different influences. Sometimes, that will result in a look which is almost pure 1950's and at other times it might be impossible to put any era on it.

  18. I agree that this article is all over the place and barely scratches the surface on this subject. Which is sort of frustrating and disappointing, and yet it is still nice to see vintage clothing in the news. Which think is a perfect parallel of how I feel about most repro vintage. I'm glad it exists, but I find most of the current offerings are not very well made or are too cartoonish and over the top for every day wear. I also feel like much of it is all just variations on the same three dresses.

    I tend to be a vintage purist for that reason, except for the clothes I make myself. Which is more and more often these days. Let's face it, vintage clothes won't last forever and some day they will all be in tatters and we will have to make news ones. 

    Regardless, most mass produced repro doesn't do it for me. Granted, most of these repro companies are small business owners and they have to make things affordable and practical to produce, so I don't expect custom couture for $40. But I also don't want to pay $180 for something made out of crappy fabric, that I'll see on 100 other ladies. Maybe I'd feel differently if I couldn't sew. I think it's hopeful though. In the last 10 years I've seen a huge improvement in repro (Whirling Turban is almost flawless in my opinion), so all in all, I'm glad its out there, fighting the good fight against velour sweatsuits and Ugg boots.

    I feel like I could go on and on about this though, so you have inspired me to write my own post on this subject. Wonderful food for thought. 

  19. It's old news here, too- but there's lots of up and coming or newly discovered "vintage" designers that I'm becoming more aware of.
    I admire the women who can make a line of reproduction clothing and make it work and survive- Revamp and Stop Staring get serious kudos for having sustained through the time when vintage wasn't "hot" on the fashion scene- and great for them to reap their rewards now that fashion has found them. It's a lot of work and it's something I can only hope to be able to do someday. Heck, especially in CA or NY (and NJ, I think) have a startup rtw clothing business is really difficult because of the different laws concerning the garment industry.
    I got into vintage in a funny way- I didn't know there was a whole subculture devoted to it and started as a collector rather than a lifestyle enthusiast or someone who wore the styles all the time. I fell in with the "purist" crowd, but would only do head to toe authentic at events or for special occasions and otherwise relied on my modern wardrobe (and got a lot of slack for it). It's not until maybe the last 5 years or so that I've been making clothing for myself to wear day-to-day rather than event specific. I could never do authentic vintage every day if it meant full on hair and makeup and heels and stockings, but I do enjoy dressing up every once in a while or on weekends.
    I do still have my favorite pieces, but I guess I'm more of a vintage collector than someone who wears vintage frequently- though I do wear 1950s cotton shirts, jeans, and dresses pretty frequently. I save the nice pieces for study, or very VERY occasional careful wear- but I find myself feeling guilty for wearing them where I know they're in such limited quantity so would much rather make myself reproductions cut on authentic lines for events and such. A lot of times folks can't tell the difference anyways ;)

  20. I definitely thought of you when I read this piece. I am not a vintage or repro sewer, but it certainly has it's appeal in that all those style and fitting seams make it so much easier to fit a woman's body. I was disappointed as well that they weren't aware of all the vintage sewing bloggers or repro sewers for that matter.

  21. I'm 5ft 10, 36FF, a UK16. I have size UK9 feet. I have not a hope in hell of getting most vintage clothing to fit me. I tend to gravitate toward repro for this reason (although I find it difficult to get much at all to fit my proportions - I'm looking at the Crepe dress in the SewAlong and trying to work out if this is viable for me...) There is a retro blog I follow whose owner is scathing about 'vintage as fancy dress' - but what if you love the styles but don't have the shape or the money to go real vintage?

    I own several repro dresses from Vivien of Holloway. They are all gorgeous, but given that I have seen the same fabrics (and I mean the exact same) in a local discount fabric shop, I can't help thinking it would be more fun to make my own. They are lovely, though.

  22. I'd love to do the purist vintage thing in my sewing, but I have a lot of learning to do before I'll be able to truly take advantage of those tools. For the comment on gallantry being more in vogue when you're wearing vintage, I've definitely noticed it. However, I know I act differently when I'm wearing vintage, almost like it's part of a costume or act, and I affect more ladylike mannerisms and generally (I hope) more charming manners, so they may be responding to this as well.

  23. I want to comment on the "pretention" of sticking to real vintage rather than repro. As others have said, often these repros are amazingly shoddily made! And they're expensive.
    I only buy vintage. I also feel that this is an ethical choice -- i don't have to worry about the source of materials or where they were made, if what i'm buying was made 50 years ago and has already been worn and loved by at least one other woman. I hope that doesn't make me pretentious or a "vintage snob!"
    Of course, i read your blog because i can also skirt ethical issues and ensure quality if i sew myself!

  24. Fit, and availability of the pieces I need, are big determining factors for me in not going full-on vintage.

    My best vintage pieces are items my mother saved from her youth--because she, too, is tall, curvy, and larg-footed.

    Heck, most modern ready-to-wear doesn't fit well for me. Vintage cut actually works better for me--but the pieces are very scarce. Sites like Etsy, where I can shop through massive quantities of stuff to find things to suit my measurements, help a lot. However, you have to be careful about buying online. So, I end up mostly not vintage on most days.

    I do agree that a lot of the repro stuff I've seen is exaggerated (not truly repro, but cosstumey), and of poor quality. I'd rather wear well-fitted, good quality new items that are not retro in appearance than wear cheap and tacky retro.

  25. I'm definitely not a purist. But I prefer real vintage because there is something about it that makes my heart melt unlike reproductions even if they are beautiful.I like the vintage fabrics and how well things were made.

    Also, larger size vintage is not impossible to find. It drives me batty when people talk about how you have to be a size 0 to fit it. I have a closet full of clothes in a modern 10-12 that dispute that.

    I have worn a vintage dress to an event that literally was disintegrating on me and modern clothes don't tend to do that! But the reproductions usually are not as well made and they use cheap fabric (stop staring). Even Revamp which I love uses plastic zippers which boggles my mind!

  26. Hmm.. I think there's a difference between 'retro' and 'pin up' .. the dresses from 'Stop Staring' and 'Pin up girls' labels, to name but a few, were originally to suit the 'underground' (alternative) pin up/retro look .. not what that look has now become, spurred on by Mad Men - enter Anthropologie and more 'high street' brands - which is a mainstream trend. This look was underground for much longer than it has been popular in the mainstream now. When I started blogging it was the devils job to find anything 'vintage' and that was only 4 years ago.

  27. Ah, my issue with both new and vintage is not lack of large sizes--it's lack of length!

    I am about 5'10" and many items are just plain too short. The problem is greater with vintage in general, and there are fewer pieces available. Repro is no help, since most modern clothing is manufactured for an average height of about 5'6"

    For both vintage and new, it takes a lot of trying on to find things that work. It's just easier if there are twelve choices (in new garments) rather than one (in vintage).

  28. I can't sew at all, and I am rather tiny but also clumsy and spill food on myself a lot. So I wear both repro and vintage items (plus contemporary). they each have their charms and problems. I think making something look timeless vs a trend has everything to do with our own personal style. If you always wear 50s style silhouettes, then it is obviously your own personal style. Vs. if you wear a 50s style gown to an event and normally wear D&G, it's more about following a trend.
    overall, I didn't really like the article, I felt that it stated a lot of the obvious and was all over the place, touching on issues but not following any one through.

  29. I really love some repro vintage clothing, but get a bit tired of the same old prints (cherries, polka dots), colours (red, black and white - even though I love red!) and the nasty, obviously synthetic fabrics that many of them are made in. This is usually only a problem with stores that specialise in retro style. I always look out for vintage inspired stuff in regular high street chains though, as they're a bit less obvious when you find them. Miss Selfridge is the best place in the UK for little knits, peter pan collars, embroidered cuffs etc... in fact, I just went on their website and they've added a "vintage style" category, which they never used to have (hope this doesn't mean they're going to go downhill!).

  30. I agree with Nancy K's comments - all of them!

    I also found it amusing that yesterday there was an article in the very same section on the resurgence of men's hats, which went out of favor after WWII. Yet neither writer nor the Style editors connected the dots between the two articles.

    On chivalry - I'm not a retro dresser or sewist, but I have always noticed that the nicer (maybe more feminine?) I am dressed, the more gentlemanly the behavior of the men I encounter on the streets and subways of NY.

  31. I've maintained a vintage collection since I was a teenager and would like to observe that the comment about being able to wear modern underthings is right on. I am a "thin" person and I have trouble with some. I actually bought a foundation to see if it was workable...made my legs fall asleep. sigh!

    As for the actual wearing of my vintage, as a Mom I fear for my collection. I have a great piece in vintage lace but it is so fragile I am afraid to wear it. Kids shoes with velcro are NOT safe and if I need to snuggle my kid while wearing it?!? sigh again. Jeans and a T-shirt are really better Mom-gear despite any preferences I have. (Similar to the observation that the mosh is no place for beloved vintage, Mom-ing is often a continual mosh pit.)

    Beyond that, I find repro too short in general and actual vintage too short I end up making a lot or making significant changes to much of what I can wear.

    Mostly I get my Retro needs addressed making reproductions of designs for doll collectors and their dolls, who don't need foundations, never gain weight and often don't even need to sit down. heheh It is a good outlet.

  32. I think it is both, like Andi says. It has been around for a while but it is also becoming a trend.

    For me it is about fit and looking timeless. I can't buy things that fit the way I want, and no authentic vintage garment fits over my curves. I love using modern fabrics, yarns and techniques to get a timeless look.

    Look and fit at a fraction of the cost is what I aim for.

  33. I haven't got much to add that hasn't already been perfectly well stated already, but I wanted to mention this: Every time somebody here has typed "repo" instead of "repro", either by accident or design, I've gotten the mental image of walking innocently down the street in my vintage-style clothes, only to have the Repo Man appear and rip them off of me!

    p.s. This is a wonderful blog. Great job, as always.

  34. To me, 100 percent vintage winds up looking like a costume. When I wear vintage, I pair it with a more modern shoe. Or a vintage coat and modern dress. Or when my vintage dress has given up the ghost, I make it into a skirt, which I then wear with a t-shirt and a cardigan.

    I also like going to thrift stores and buying vintage fabric and making something. Or getting modern fabric and making a vintage pattern.

    I own some repro stuff, which as a seamstress, I can always change the details. I was a groomsperson in a wedding and wore a tuxedo dress from Daddy'os. I changed the button and the bow tie. Small stuff, but it does make it better.

    I love the Trashy Diva clothing and it's quite well made.

  35. Actually, the problem with fit isn't with vintage clothes, it's with vintage stores. American women used to be tall and big, since way back in the 19th century. Taller and bigger than women from other places on the whole. But it's vintage store owners who make the choice to only buy and stock smaller-size pieces. Jerks..

  36. The New York Times has an irritating habit of acting as if something hasn't existed until it's written about in The New York Times. The Times is the paper I grew up with, and I used to revere it, but I no longer can take it entirely seriously. Slate and Gawker also have written about the paper's penchant for fake trends.

    Anyway, to your question, I like vintage reproductions if:

    --They're well-executed. Cheap material and frills are just depressing. Better an honest, T shirt made from nice cotton jersey than a fancy dress made from cheap acetate.

    --They're an "interpretation," not a slavish replication. For example, don't make skirts that women can't walk in. This is 2011.

  37. Casey:

    As I recall, J. Peterman sold some actual costumes and props from the Titanic production, not reproductions.

    If you recall, just before the movie came out, after many delays, there was still much speculation that it would be a titanic flop.

    When I got the J. Peterman catalogue and saw the Titanic stuff on offer, I was astonished.

  38. the Vintage SeamstressFebruary 5, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I have loved vintage clothing since I was little (I think endlessly watching "Annie" and "The Sound of Music" might have sparked my interest from a young age! I, too, started sewing clothing from vintage pattens for myself because I could rarely find the real thing in my size or in a wearable condition. I am all too happy to buy and wear reproduction vintage clothing and indeed, I am extremely grateful that there are those out there willing to make this kind of clothing (and shoes, don't foregt the shoes!). I have mixed feelings about the "vintage" trend of late. On the one hand I think hooray! People are finally starting to understand and share the aesthetic that I have coveted for so long. I feel a bit more socially accepted because of it. On the other hand I think Oh no! I am now going to be seen as a hopeless fashion follower and my passion for reproducing vintage clothes may be seen as one more peddler trying to expolitate the hapless fashion victims. I'm being melodramatic, I know. I guess I will just enjoy the ride while it lasts and adhere to the old position of not caring what other people think of me and just be true to myself.

  39. As much as I would love to wear 100 % vintage day in and day out, I don't think it is simply possible. As with many of the previous points raised here, most of what I have found in vintage shops is teeny-tiny (granted, I am a small gal, but I don't spend my day smoking and drinking coffee, as my mama remembers her mother doing when she was a child), and requires "special handling". I have a lovely homemade dress that I would date from the 40's or 50's that I wear maybe twice a year out of the fear that the darn thing will disintegrate. And I paid $2 for it at a dry cleaner's in my neighborhood.
    So, I guess my point is that I think (well-made)repro pieces are brilliant. The "older" fashions are flattering and chic, and I am happy to wear reproductions, made by me or found new or used.

  40. i'm both. i have a terrific collection of vintage dresses (late 1940s-1960s) that i wear on a frequent basis and i find pictures of dresses i can't hope to own (ooh designer pieces are lovely and $$$$$!). my answer to that is to "interpret" the pattern on my own and make the dress for myself. i seek out vintage fabric (i have a stash right now) and vintage notions. i haven't bought any repro pieces because they're generally more than i can afford to pay (grad student) and the few pieces i've seen (trashy diva and stop staring) have impressed me from the outside but not the inside. they aren't always lined and if i'm paying $100+ dollars (US) for a wool dress, i would like a lining.

    i also like customizing the pieces i make and buying repro doesn't allow that. vintage doesn't either, but i just can't pass it up if it fits....too lovely!

  41. While I love wearing vintage pieces, for my lifestyle it's not practical to wear it all the time. So I prefer to mix up my wardrobe, I own some great pieces in clothes, handbags, & jewelry and will mix them in with my modern wardrobe (whether it be store bought or hand sewn).

    I don't like seeing cheap material in stores regardless of if it's retro inspired or a modern style. As with anything, styles come and go; what we were wearing in the 1990s will be the hot thing to wear in another 10-15 years.

  42. I own two vintage dresses, both of which appear to have been handmade (one of which I had to make my own petticoat for, using Gerties' tutorial!)

    The first one I paid twenty pounds for at a 'vintage' shop (making it possibly the most expensive garment ever in my charity-shop wardrobe...) because I loved the print, only to discover, when I got it home, that none of the inside bodice seams had been finished at all by the original seamstress. Judging by the way it frayed after one day's wear, it had evidently been finished off in a tremendous rush to meet the deadline for some party, and then never worn again since! I'm still hand-finishing, binding with offcut strips, and otherwise stabilising all those endless seams... but it's a beautiful garment, and a ttracted a lot of attention on the two outings on which I've had a suitable occasion to wear it.

    The second one came to me from a friend in her late eighties, who had kept it from her youth because it was her favourite, and had been lent to an amateur dramatic society; the fabric of the side seams was torn where the back-buckled belt had been ripped out, either by someone attempting a quick change or through being worn by someone who was too fat :-(

    When I came to mend it, I found that someone had already attempted the same thing earlier, using very similar hand-stitching techniques, and the belt had clearly been ripped out again. So this time, as well as taking it in another half-inch on each side to clear the tear and improve the fit (alas, I discovered that there was another dodgy bit that lay just beyond the seam, and had to insert an invisible darn to strengthen it up) I sewed a bit of bias binding through the ends of the belt on both sides to spread the strain along the length of the seam instead of tearing the corners at the point where the belt end is sewn in. It stands up to a good tug now, so I'm hoping I've finally halted the rot as there isn't an awful lot of scope left for taking those seams in.... I haven't had a chance to wear that one yet, although I've got some thoughts about it.

    Anyway, my point is that the only 'genuine vintage' items I'm ever going get my hands on are those that come cheap because they're damaged or defective in some way; I don't object to that (I like mending things). Most of the 'vintage style' clothes I wear are simply vintage because I got them from charity shops twenty years or so ago, when they were merely old-fashioned... and I never throw things away while they're still mendable....

    But I don't really distinguish whether something is 'vintage' or just looks good. I discovered a long time ago that waists and long skirts suit me, but I'm no purist, and will happily veer between an Edwardian ruffled-blouse and ankle-skirt look (obviously not original!) or a 1970s Liberty woollen day dress that I've had since I was a teenager, which happens to be genuine (as above, when I got it, it was just 'old').

  43. I don't go for vintage due to the slim lines it requires. When my mum died in 1995 she left a wardrobe full of her 1950s outfits but I had to donate them all to the Salvos as they were all for my mum's figure then- tiny waist, hardly any bust but more hips than me, plus she was taller with very narrow shoulders. I'm short and dumpy with swimmer's arms and shoulders, no bum and slim legs- not much fashion stuff suits me at all, but I DO make things that fit. In fact I made a dress very like the one you demonstrated in that blue rose floral, about 10 years ago- scoop neck, gathered skirt and all! The fabric must have been destined for that style! Now I'll dig out some photos of mum in her 50s dresses, eg. Aren't we cute in our matching outfits?

  44. Hi Gertie--just found your blog and am so enjoying reading it. I am new to sewing, but open to experimenting, and really appreciate your dedication and time to us.

    I happened to pick up this book ( and really enjoyed reading it. Perhaps you might enjoy checking it out AND get some tips for places to go, since the author's store (which is real) is in NY.
    Thanks for sharing all your creativity with us!

  45. This is an interesting subject, isn't it? I mix original vintage with my own production - which is vintage-inspired more than anything, as I draft my own patterns and have never really used commercial ones - and the odd off-the-rack garment.

    I generally don't buy repro; too expensive for what it is, I can do it better myself, and it rarely speaks to me. Someone used the word cartoonish. That's very apt, I think.

    As for vintage, I am not tiny (44-46, which translates to US 16-18, I think?) , but I find things that fit me well, or well enough to adjust, fairly regularly. The vast majority of my outerwear, jackets, coats, hats and all my fur, is vintage. I practically live in a late 40's suit jacket. I have some good dresses, shoes and undergarments as well, although I tend to save those for evening and occasional wear.

    The general impression I give off is probably vintage. I wear a hat (or cap, or headscarf) and gloves on a daily basis. I wear my hair up all the time. I don't own a pair of jeans. It works for me, I don't think of it as any extra effort.

  46. I've been wearing vintage for many years and have always been surprised that people say they can't wear it because only tiny sizes are available. There's lots of vintage out there that is way too big for me, unfortunately. It must be that 'funky smell' thing putting them off. I admit it is a problem--I have been airing out a recent blouse purchase for around two months now, waiting for a strong mothball smell to dissipate. The annoying thing is that the smell only appeared after I got it home and washed it. It would gag a maggot.

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