I have worn and collected vintage fashion since my pre-teen years. Back in the 80s there was an abundance of vintage clothing stores in NYC and north NJ. Today, there are fewer brick and mortar stores and more burgeoning online shops. There has always been a demand for vintage fashion, however, there has been a resurgence within the past 10 years. It’s now on trend to mix vintage pieces with contemporary wear. One example is the hodgepodge of vintage and modern fashion that Sarah Jessica Parker wears in “Sex and the City.” Other examples of this eclectic styling can be seen on the devoteés of the cruise for Steam Punk fashion, the Jazz Age lawn party on Governor’s Island, NY as well as the way celebrity stylists dress their A-list clients. The Rockabilly fashion community is immersed in retro culture as their homes, clothing and cars seem to be plucked from “Leave it to Beaver.”
It is thrilling to see such enthusiasm in collecting what history has left for us. Vintage artifacts need to be lovingly handled, nurtured and restored. We live in a “fast fashion” disposable society. The need for the latest and the hottest is satiated with a $25 dress from H&M which then languishes in the back of the closet next to other fast fashion impulse items with price tag still attached. The reason why I purchase vintage fashion is for the quality, fit and style. The details are outstanding, for example, unique rhinestone buttons on many sweater and jacket closures. Clothing, in the past, was well made and meant to last. Today, this quality is obtainable but with a hefty price tag. Thankfully, we have many options to purchase vintage fashion.
The show hosts about 90 vendors who come from all over the USA and sell clothing and textiles from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. I spoke to many of the vendors and found them knowledgeable and eager to discuss the history of their merchandise. Though it was crowded, people were courteous and friendly. Many came equipped with rolling suitcases to cart their purchases. Most notably, I enjoyed seeing the stylish shoppers, who were not only colorful but approached their style with a sense of humor. This is one of the many reasons I love NY–the creativity, exuberance and fashion sense of people.
I spent 2.5 hours in a mad dash to get through every rack, so I could beat the rush hour traffic to drive back home. I suggest allocating 3-4 hours to shop and examine the breadth of the offerings. Bring bottled water since the one vendor on site sells water for $2. Alternatively, if you are hungry and need a good cup of coffee, walk a few doors down and visit the Telegraphe Cafe, a mom and pop coffee shop.
There was so much I wanted to buy, but I set some personal limits. There was a 1950s leopard jacket with big black buttons in mint condition which still recurs in my dreams. At $600, this would eat up my entire budget for the day. So instead, I caressed it and whispered “I hope I see you in October. If not, bring a relative when I come back.”
In any case, I had a marvelous time and left with a beautiful hat and red patent leather rain coat. My mom, who accompanied me on this jaunt, scored red leather cowboy boots and a 1970s lace sheer black tunic. Perfect outfit for a Fleetwood Mac concert.
The Manhattan Vintage Show returns in October, so don’t forget to visit their website and sign up for a reminder. Come October, I will scour the show for vintage hat boxes, since my collection is growing exponentially. Eventually, I may need to hang my hats on vintage meat hooks from every ceiling in my house.
See you in six months, vintage loves.