Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Montclair Art Museums’ Centennial Celebratory Luncheon. Cameron Silver, known as The King of Vintage, owner of one of LA’s finest Vintage stores and author of the book Decades (named for his store) was on hand to discuss exactly that; 20th Century Vintage Fashion, decade by decade.
You know how you NEVER see a yellow VW bug and then your friend buys one and suddenly they are EVERYWHERE. It’s like when YOU become conscious of something, it finally exists. Well, lately, everywhere I look or read I’ve been coming across the topic of Vintage Fashion as an alternative for Fast Fashion. Magazines, lectures, blog posts, people I run into — this topic seems to be hitting ME over the head lately, so you, lucky readers, will get a heavy dose as well. Mr. Silver began his lecture with a brief outline of his background and how he came to be the King of Vintage, and like most Hollywood success stories, it was purely accidental, and after failed attempt at German Cabaret Singing. Of course it was! In his trying to find stage costumes for his own act, he found himself compelled to buy women’s Vintage gowns too beautiful to leave behind. Years later, he opened a store to sell his collection, a few celebrity stylists took note, and the rest is retail, if not fashion, history.
What I loved most about Cameron and his personal journey into Fashion was his take on Vintage clothing itself. He is very clear in his fashion value of “it must be modern.” Where Vintage had only been worn by quirky girls with hats and granny glasses in the past, folks like Mr. Silver brought Vintage onto the Red Carpet in a way that made it relevant today. Not as a costume, but as an homage to the designers who came before.
The problem with trends these days (woah — I just had my first official, “kids these days!” moment), is that because of Fast Fashion, Globalization, and Celebrity Culture (the Internet dutifully fueling all three), trends that used to signify a decade are now signifying a “moment”. How long is a fashion moment? Until the next one comes along, pretty much, which could be as short as a few months. If you look through Mr. Silvers book you will find and probably recognize each decades “look” But when you get into the 21st century, the trends of the decades are that there are too many trends! Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh, that’s so ‘2006.”?
Wearing Vintage has its own set of obstacles – for one, the one-of-a-kind-ness of each item can make what you’re looking for hard to find. Some folks love the thrill of the hunt, others just need a pair of black trousers, stat. In addition, the fact that it has been pre-loved, used, worn, etc. may mean it is in need of repair, or will soon be in need of repair. If you find a piece in perfect condition and with a certain label inside, the cost may be prohibitive. And lastly, my favorite consideration, fit. Bodies, silhouettes , fabrics and sizing were all very different 20 if not 50 years ago. A tailor is your best Vintage Fashion Shopping Friend.
Mr. Silver signed books during his trunk show, where attendees were treated to a post-lecture hands on opportunity to purchase a Rudi Gernreich mod mini dress, a Jean Paul Gaultier cage jacket, and a Missoni dress and sweater set, among other gems. HIS trendslation on buying and wearing Vintage?
“Treat your closet like a curator, and if you buy the right pieces, your wardrobe will outlive you.”
Truer words, I’ve never heard. Oh, that, and his other piece of advice, “Never get rid of your Alaia.”