Why buy Vintage? (Plus a life changing book recommendation!)
The deeper I get into my career as a vintage seller the more aware I become that not everyone gets it.
The most common question I encounter is:
Why would I buy old stuff when I could buy new stuff (sometimes for less money)?
I can offer you 2 perspectives on this. One, is a more personal, emotional set of reasons. The other lays out the ethical, practical explanations.
First, If you’re like me then you’ve always enjoyed thrifting, garage sale-ing, and grabbing treasures from other people’s “trash.” For vintage lovers the thrill of the hunt is way more gratifying than the convenience of walking into a modern store and grabbing something off the shelf. I revel in living amongst unique items that most people don’t own. I find unusual things way more exciting than expensive things. I’m proud when someone compliments something in my home and I can exclaim “I paid $3 for it at Goodwill!”
I also really enjoy the idea of an item having history and continuing to live on in many different homes. As we all know, trends are cyclical. I confess to getting a little smug when I have the decades old original of whatever is currently in fashion.
Now for the practical/ethical. These points are best broken down in the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. This book focuses on clothing consumption but it can be applied to modern day jewelry and home decor items as well. I highly recommend everyone read this book. I found it life changing!
Here’s a brief overview:
The author was horrified to realize that she had an insane amount of excess, often similar clothing. She then decided to re-evaluate her shopping habits, realizing that she was falling victim to a familiar trap: buying large numbers of items simply because they were on sale.
For example, she found herself buying several pairs of identical shoes simply because they were on sale for $7. Long story short, her realizations take her on a fascinating journey through the history of clothing production/consumption. In America, most clothing was made domestically until the early 1990’s when it became outsourced to poorer countries. This lead to horror that is the 3rd world sweatshop. This also marked a switch to cheaper fabrics and lower quality.
Think about the cheapest thing you’ve ever bought on sale at Target (or Forever 21, T.J. Maxx, etc). Now consider what the production cost must have been for that item to sell for that low price and for the store to still make a profit. Ok now think about what percentage of that is left over for the factory worker. It’s sobering.
Additionally, these cheaply produced clothing items either fall apart after a few washes or end up being donated once a trend has run its course. However, these low quality items do not have any resale value and usually do not sell well at thrift stores. I can personally vouch for how disappointing it is to go on a thrift hunt for my dream 1950s cardigan only to encounter a bunch of pilled sweaters from H&M. In the end, this clothing mostly ends up in a landfill where, due to the artificial fabric content, they never bio-degrade.
This leads me to my next point… buying vintage is recycling! The more we buy second hand the less we’re contributing to the earth’s demise. Yay!
In fact, the pilled H&M sweater is a prime example of vintage vs modern quality. I find it amazing that a dress from the 1950’s can hold up better than a garment manufactured this year. This is especially apparent with vintage costume jewelry. I have a beautiful vintage collection inherited from my great aunt that includes Trifari, Coro, and Monet. All are in excellent condition. However, I was recently in a high end NYC store known for it’s costume jewelry only to observe several pieces already missing stones- and these were expensive items!
Here’s the part where I acknowledge that buying 100% vintage in 2017 is impossible. Trust me, I’m not on my high horse over here pretending like I’m living on the set of Mad Men. Also, if I’m being completely honest I have a weak spot for a few “mall stores” that I sometimes give into. Just do what you can. Every little bit counts I say!
If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy thrifting but does want to save the planet while enjoying hard to find vintage items then you’re in luck! Diamond Dust Vintage (and your local vintage shop) has you covered! Bonus points for buying vintage and supporting a small business :)