Is there anything quite like the excitement of realizing that you are wearing a blue vintage dress with bike wheels all over it while riding your blue vintage bike? Is it weird that this coincidence somehow had the effect of making me feel like I have become the person I always wanted to be?
I can’t be the only person who lies in bed at night worrying that all the good 1960s vintage crap I love is rapidly fading from antiques stores and vintage shops and Salvation Armies and Goodwills and town dumps and soon I will be forced to start liking things from the 1980s just because that’s what is available.
As all vintage shoppers know, when you see something you like or think you can use in the future or might be able to fashion into something wearable or usable with just a little sewing or painting or sanding or reconfiguring, you must buy it even though a large part of you knows you will never sew or paint or sand or reconfigure. It very well might be the very last 100% cotton A-line pink flowered 1967 dress with an adorable white Peter Pan collar and attached white slip in the world. How could you let such a thing pass you by just because of a small concern like the fact that it’s giant in the bust and three sizes too small in the waist? (O, cursed vegan chef body!)
I have visions of old people dying and their thoughtless relatives throwing out entire caches of amazing mod lives. Don’t they know people like me are unable to sleep because of their careless actions?
I have another vision – one that I turn to when I am wearing that rarest of rare animals: vintage clothes made of cotton that fit well. On those non-polyester sweaty days, I have a vision of becoming one of those people you hear about who live perfect period lives. From drinking glasses to hair styles to curtains, I want a vintage life.
It’s not just that things were made so much better then, it’s not just the waste-free living angle, it’s not just the thrill of the hunt, or that it freaks some people out (my friend Alison, who can’t believe I wear someone else’s shoes), or the pretty colors, rich fabrics, weird patterns, or utterly bizarre items.
A lot of it is just that everything is so ugly today. I want beauty everywhere. I want beauty in my door handle, beauty in the toilet paper holder, beauty in my zipper pull.
2008 exhausts me with its endless and limitless blah. I want exploding flower print baby doll dresses and shockingly pink long sleeved house dresses with full skirts that zip all the way up. I want slips and scarves and big sunglasses and white knee high boots. Most of the time I wear jeans and hoodies and ponytails because I get filthy while working (which reminds me: i want frilly aprons), but I long to have a dressing table – a bureau! – with my heavy hairbrush and perfume bottles (no, I do not wear perfume. Still.). I want to make getting dressed an event. It’s silly and regressive and way too girly for a girl with hairy armpits and eyebrows that impolite people have said would be lovely if they were “shaped” (I don’t want to know what that would entail), but I want it all.
But, alas. The world is going to hell at an ever quicker pace every day, and it’s ridiculous to devote the stamina or time or money necessary to create a 100% vintage life. So I have perhaps a 50% vintage life, and I’m pretty happy with that. I’m typing on my iBook at my 1955 desk in my pink and red office with it’s vintage encyclopedias and printer’s drawer filled with thread inherited from my grandmother. I’ve got a new sewing machine that has never seen a brand new piece of fabric, and I use my great Aunt Rose’s black rotary phone as much as I use my iPhone (it’s the only phone in the house that never fizzles out for no reason). Balance.
Here are some lovely sites I’ve come across related to livin’ la vida vintage:
-Although there is nothing greater than the rush that comes from a super sweet Goodwill find, sometimes I am happy to pay the insane markups that people who have scoured the thrift shop shelves and weeded out the trash from the, well, you know, demand. Salvage Life is one of those kind of sites.
-With even more money, you can get amazing thrifty finds that someone else has nipped and tucked into something actually wearable (unlike the 10 polyester house dresses I own). Hairy Mary is one of those magical places. I have never bought anything there, but I browse every single time I am in the neighborhood. (I also go to Economy Candy, Bluestockings, and Teany every time I am in the neighborhood, in case you were wondering, which I’m sure you were.)
-If you’re in the New Paltz area, you probably already know about the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange. I went there for the first time today, and even though they only have 20% of their precious junk at the new location I spent a pleasurable half hour browsing and came up with all kinds of treasures – perfectly good ribbon, boxes of unused envelopes from companies that have gone out of business, a thousand or so ridiculously cute enameled vintage pins with slogans like “I love my honey,” “world’s greatest lover,” “I love cute boys,” and “I love unicorns” (!). I resisted actually buying all of the hundreds of pins they had, but the temptation was strong – I’m sure I could find something awesome to do with them. But because I wasn’t at a yard sale or flea market, I felt calm knowing that the hilarious trash-obsessed woman running the HVME will not let them go into the “waste stream” and some crafty vintage-pin lover will come along and put them to good use.
The Materials Exchange consists of 6 or so tractor trailers packed with boxes and bins parked next to the town recycling center (and dump) – is there a better way to shop? Once you have become a devoted vintage shopper, you are truly ruined for department stores. Nothing beats stores in rusty abandoned tractor trailers.
-Speaking of recycling, have I never mentioned my obsession with the idea of living in a reclaimed (I’m not sure “reclaimed” applies to something costing $300,000, actually) airplane? I hate flying, but how great would an airplane home be? When my sweetheart and I talk about building a house on the land when we magically pay off our student loans and everything else, the conversation consists of us just saying
over and over to each other. I talk about having a bedroom in the cockpit (all those windows!) and he talks about having to rip out all the seats and everything, and I talk about how you can make it weathervane in the wind, and he just stares at me.