Vintage Fashion: a Story of Love & Elegance

Posted by Cherie
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Robert Doisneau working on fashion shoot with photographer Louise Dahl Wolfe and model Suzy Parker, 1953.

Cherie recently was contacted by Alice Demurtas, who writes for The Fashion Foot blog, to be interviewed for this post that went up this week. We have reprinted it here for you to check out! Thanks to the Fashion Foot for such a great job!

When Nietzsche was formulating his theory about history he surely wasn’t thinking of its applications in the fashion world. Nevertheless, as it happens when one analyzes philosophical ideas from centuries ago, one cannot avoid being influenced by the society and culture one is experiencing at the moment.  A fortiori, when it comes to Nietzsche’s idea of human life as a necessity to balance past and future, the concept itself is so timeless, so brilliantly modern that it can be applied to any field in any period of time. Even fashion.

In fact, fashion itself is not only influenced by past trends and events, current social and cultural changes and the endeavor to ensure its place in future history, but it is an actual link between tradition and progress. Think about the revival of the 60s mood that was seen everywhere on last year catwalks: Marc Jacobs’s checked dresses for Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2013 collection, paired with big hair and white headbands, were blatantly inspired by the playful atmosphere of Swinging London but, at the same time, perfectly placed in the present social context. Beauty-wise, the 60s cat-eye eyeliner has been the most replicated look since last spring, both as its most classic version and by adding a modern twist.

(L) Lanvin, (M) Louis Vuitton, (R) Anna Sui. All photos by GoRunway.

Nevertheless, the attempt to create a bound between past and present is most evident in the increasing love for vintage fashion that people have been experiencing these past few years. But what is the reason behind this phenomenon? Can it be explained only as a desire to find steady roots in our past because we are losing any certainty in our future?

For Cherie Federau, founder of Shrimpton Couture, one of the most famous and glamorous online shop for vintage obsessed, there is both a practical and an emotional reason behind the current love for vintage fashion. On the practical side, the quality of vintage items is far superior than the quality of clothes produced for high street brands.  The attention to details and precision was unbelievable, especially when it came to all those techniques such as hand stitching and applying beads and appliques without machines that are now becoming a lost art.

On the other hand, the idea of possessing and being able to wear one-of-a-kind items plays a big part on our emotional attachment to vintage fashion. "Vintage offers exclusivity and a sense of being individual", explains Cherie. "When you start with a piece no one else can get their hands on, it’s not hard to feel special before you even walk out the door. There is a certain appeal in knowing that you may be wearing the only example of that piece left on the planet".

After the Second World War, clothes have been produced in factories on a mass scale: the point was to make new clothes more accessible to every social class. Nevertheless, machine-made items tend to look all the same in appearance and shape, since they are made taking in consideration the shape of an average body, instead of being tailored to specific curves.
Now things are changing again: the public expects something else, something more special and individual. Something that shows the character behind the clothes and where the dress comes from.

Indeed, part of the allure of vintage clothes lies in the story they preserve: the story of those women who have bought and loved those items and who have lived extraordinary lives while wearing them. "There is something very special about having a bit of the past and being its keeper in the future", says Cherie about the relationship between clothes and the individual. "When you pick up an exquisitely bias cut silk floral chiffon gown from 1930, you cannot help but wonder about the girl that once dreamed of her future life while wearing that dress“.

We also need to consider how the style itself of those women, glam icons and not, known for their elegance, good manners and charm, becomes an inspiration for many girls that cannot find the same sense of nobility in the modern world. In this case, while some of them look for what they need in shops and markets, some others try to recreate that atmosphere with their own hand.  It’s what happened to Alessandra, founder of the Italian label Rosaspina Vintage: inspired by the fabrics her grandfather, a sailor, used to bring home from foreign lands when she was little, she started designing and creating her own collections of vintage inspired clothes that could truly represent her personality and style.  “What I love the most about vintage fashion is the sophisticate grace and natural elegance of shapes and lines, as dresses were made with the intention to hug and valorise women‘s curves”, says Alessandra. “Wearing vintage clothes or surrounding ourselves with antique items is a bit like entering a time machine and bring a bit of that poetry into our lives.

Rosapina Vintage

Poetry and elegance are definitely the essence of her collections: the 50s and 60’s inspired romantic silhouettes were created with the intention of enhancing every woman’s shape, keeping them at the same time comfortable enough to be worn every day. My collections are designed for creative women with an old-fashioned sensitivity and a dainty elegance of times gone, feminine but practical; women that love fashion but don‘t necessarily want to follow it; women that want to feel special“.

Ultimately, while it is possible to say that a big part of the allure of vintage revolves around our desire to feel different and special, we can‘t affirm that this is the only reason behind it. As vintage style makes us feel chic and sophisticated, actual vintage clothes are wearable art, and as such they‘re able to capture specific historical moments and accumulate countless stories. When wearing vintage items we explore a different side of our personality that we can‘t show in any other way: we strive to define who we are and who we want to be, led by a small piece of history into the unknown exciting future.

Written by: Alice Demurtas

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