Why I’m Committing to Shopping Only Vintage in 2021


It all started with a Richard Avedon photo. I was 21, days into the first semester of my fashion history graduate program, and seated in a photography studies course. On the classroom projector was the model Renée, spinning on the streets of Paris in 1947 to the delight of some male passersby. Her Dior skirt catches the air, swirling like a luxurious meringue. Looking upon her impossibly elegant figure left me feeling dizzy with delight. The photo overwhelmed with its heady glamour. To my eyes, this was everything I wanted to be—poised, graceful, well-mannered, well-read, with the world wrapped around her red lacquered finger. I needed that skirt.

In my search for the perfect one that could spin like a ballerina in a music box, I took to the internet to purchase a sweet, black, high waisted, A-line Kate Spade skirt of a faux silk faille. I paired it with a classic white shirt. It didn’t not work but it was acres away from the vision I had in my mind. Only after I searched “real 1950s skirt” did I find what I was looking for and did I discover the glories of Etsy. Much more than knitted potholders and monogrammed bachelorette tchotchkes, the marketplace is vintage fashion heaven, where bygone trends live on. Page after page of mid-century circle skirts, specifically constructed to create the same volume and beautiful drape, appeared. It wasn’t New Look Dior, but it would do marvelously.

A recent acquisition, a bridesmaid dress worn to a micro wedding in November.  

10 years later, I have a carefully curated closet full of vintage clothing designed to make me look like an Avedon heroine—Anne Fogarty’s prim day dresses, beaded numbers by Malcolm Starr, separates from Jonathan Logan. I’m not a numbers person, but if I had to dabble, I would estimate that 90% of all my clothing (excluding shoes, undergarments, sleepwear, and activewear) is either vintage or secondhand. Unwittingly and motivated purely by my obsession with an aesthetic, I had cobbled together a wardrobe with a relatively low environmental impact.

This understanding came only late last year, coinciding with the secondhand market’s rapid ascent to fashionableness—2020 saw the online resale market grow by 27%. I’d see my favorite environmental advocate, Lauren Singer behind @TrashIsForTossers, explain to her followers that her new dress was secondhand and therefore fit her laudable zero-waste lifestyle. Same, but different? I thought to myself. Cast in one light, I’m a girl with one too many wasp-waisted cocktail dresses. Cast in another, am I an eco-warrior? I began to wonder if I could commit to a year of shopping exclusively in the secondary market and devised a plot to only shop vintage and resale for the rest of the year. Excluding the aforementioned categories of clothing that, for me, don’t have a vintage appeal for reasons relating to hygiene, any new wardrobe acquisitions in 2021 would be not-new. Though it’s worth noting that it is possible to purchase never worn products in the secondary market, so my resolution does come with some leeway.





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