Why buy a pre-owned dress when you can have a new one at a lower price? That’s the first thing that comes to mind when one encounters vintage pieces for the first time.
I’m no expert in vintage jewellery or cars or furniture but I have been dealing in vintage dresses for a few years now. Personally I fell in love with wearing vintage dresses the first time I put one on. Some of the features of a typical vintage dress that makes it really appealing:
- Higher-waisted - many vintage dresses are more fitted on the upper body and flairs out from high-waist, which is the slimmest part of our body. It helps to create a slimmer look by elongating the lower body. This is extremely flattering if you aren’t tall to begin with and have a pear-shaped figure.
- Not too short - call me conservative, but seriously I don’t like my dresses too short. Those modern pieces that lands at half-thigh aren’t for me. We know maxi dresses are in and here to stay but a long vintage dress kept in its original length with it’s intricate design details immediately catches everyone’s attention.
- Intricate details - from the textured high-quality fabric to design details like Plissé pleats, dresses made back then offers great workmanship and are of a different class altogether.
- Unique - since it’s so unlikely that you will find another exact same dress which has been kept for so many years, you will not bump into someone wearing the same dress ever. Great for that upcoming wedding luncheon or dinner you will be attending!
If you are hoping to strike gold when you walk into a vintage store - unearth that never-worn-before designer jacket or dress, you will likely be disappointed. Truth is, the creme of the crop would have been quickly set aside by those at the front of the supply chain. But if it happens to be your lucky day and you chance upon one such dress, be prepared to pay!
Vintage dresses are pre-owned, or pre-loved as many like to call it now but they still fall under a broad category of second-hand clothing. So how do we differentiate a real vintage from those unwanted clothing that your neighbour trashed? Some clues:
1. An obvious indicator are the labels on the dress. Most vintage dresses I bought were made in Japan. Thus original Japanese labels on the dresses, often hand-stitched back then, can be a good indicator of its authenticity. Remember back then, there was no outsourcing. When it is from Japan, it was made in Japan, not mass-produced at lower cost in other Asian cities. So it’s quite safe to say that if it shows “Made in China”, it’s unlikely vintage.
2. The usage of metal zippers can also indicate the age of the dress as only metal zippers were used back then. After 1960s, plastic zippers are used instead.
3. Vintage dresses often had side opening or unique front buttons running from the collar down to the waist, followed by a short zipper. I was told by my grandma that it’s easier to put on the dress this way, compared to fasteners at the back.
Having said these, most vintage dresses available at stores now have been altered to make it more contemporary looking. Wear and tear over the decades is expected so they may have been improved with new lining (meaning the labels sewn on the original lining had been removed) or metal zippers may have worn out and replaced with new plastic ones. It takes experience and sharp eyes to source for authentic vintage dresses and you should always buy from vintage stores which sourced from reputable brokers and which have been in this vintage business for at least a few years.
Last but not least, wearing vintage dresses is not only comfortable, pretty and is GREEN! We recycle, reuse and reduce waste. Have fun finding one that suits your style and help to save the environment!