Last week I found myself rummaging through the racks of a secondhand vintage shop in Antwerp. The name of the store is Think Twice. What started out as a shy and slightly awkward window shopping endeavour, quickly grew into an addiction after my first visit. Though secondhand vintage shopping is a highly praised activity in the fashion industry for cultural reasons, I stayed away from it until last week.
Very often when people would tell me of their awesome finds, the thought running through my mind would be, ‘how could you be satisfied with something that has been used?’ I know it sounds elitist but as a child growing up, I was told by my elders to not wear the clothes that were worn by other people. As I grew older, I learnt that those warnings were associated with old wives’ tales and strange beliefs. My godmother had also warned me off giving clothes away carelessly. She would often say ‘people can use them to bury the dead or stuff the coffin.’
Being the anxious person that I naturally am, I stayed away from vintage shops with great fright as I didn’t want to catch anyone’s bad luck. Even though I knew deep down inside the warnings were just based on stereotypes and myths, I avoided this facet of fashion in order to escape scary predictions of what could happen.
These beliefs, however, were also deeply intertwined with attitudes of classism and made it okay to look down on and scorn vintage shopping. How is it ever okay to give my clothes away and not wear those that belonged to other people? They would also claim buying clothes that were previously worn was a sign that you couldn’t do better and a sign that you belonged to a lower economic class. It isn’t something I should brag about.
After I moved to Europe, I discovered this Guyanese blogger who lives in NYC and loves vintage clothes; she is always bragging about her thrift shop finds. Before I even read her Instagram captions, I would be fascinated by her pictures. I started to wonder if there was something seriously wrong with me and the opinions of those whom I value. I mean this girl looks perfectly fine with all these secondhand vintage finds. What could possibly be wrong with it?
Here are a few conclusions I drew after my very first vintage haul.
I have always been okay with giving my old clothes away but never okay with wearing something from someone else. This is an attitude I developed from small and it was considered okay in my social construct. Let us be frank, there is something very wrong with thinking like this. There is nothing about me that is superior to anyone and vice versa. I shouldn’t be giving anything away if I’m that uncomfortable with wearing secondhand clothes myself. I find it hypocritical and a supposed value I am happy to distance myself from. If you can give away used clothes, you can buy used clothes.
Style vs myth
The whole theory behind vintage shopping is being able to again access to style eras that you admire and can no longer find in shops. There is a huge difference in pieces from the past eras and fashion being produced now. The clothing from past eras seem to have way more intricacy and quality, even though they were previously loved. I found myself wondering what someone would gain by defiling clothes and then selling them to a vintage shop? Probably nothing. This is more about attaining style in the diluted fashion industry in which we live. It is about fashion survival, as weird as it may seem.
Economic value and carbon footprint
I currently have five new pieces; those five pieces cost me a total of €18. I know. It was ridiculously cheap. The week I decided to my little rummaging turned out to be the sale week and apparently Think Twice has the best reductions in Antwerp. That aside, I feel culturally we have been indoctrinated in Guyana to think that only expensive clothes are beautiful. Exquisite taste is defined by high prices and logos and this is where style starts and stops. Though I have reduced my carbon footprint whilst richening my closet with invaluable stylish pieces, the best part of vintage shopping is that there is no pressure to constantly buy. This allows me to reduce my carbon footprint in the long run. You will not find something on every trip, in comparison to fast fashion where there is much pressure to constantly consume even if you don’t really fancy the item or trend. While this may be a greener way to source fashion it is also lighter on the wallet. Vintage shopping has always been a relatively cheaper alternative.
I told my friends I felt different when I was in the shop. Everyone and everything seemed so timeless. I felt as if I was in some sort of movie from back in the day. I had a stronger connection with the clothes. As far as the myths go, nothing has happened to me. I washed all the clothes before I placed them in my wardrobe. I can guarantee you that after your first buy, all your worries over the stigma of vintage shopping will start to fade.