Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quality in vintage, modern and reproductions..

One of the reasons that I love vintage is the quality.  An average vintage dress from the 1950s is head and shoulders above any modern department store frock in design, construction and fabrics used.   On the rare occasions that I venture into a mall or department store, I'm always horrified when I see the quality of the products.

Chinese cashmere is crap.  Notice how it is starting to pill, while still on the display table!  Don't buy it, it won't last the season, much less onto next.  In the past decade the Chinese have managed to make sweaters out of the cashmere that used to be thrown away, and the quality of the fiber shows.  I pass them up at thrift stores when they're marked $2.  In my opinion they're still overpriced.  I have fabulous vintage cashmere sweaters from 50+ years ago that I pull out winter after winters,  thicker, fluffier and built to last like a Sherman tank.  Shop for vintage pieces at local stores or online.  Dalton and Pringle are fabulous makers,  add "Scotland" to your search.  You'll be amazed what you can pick up for a fraction of modern prices, and be on cloud 9 when you put it on and experience what cashmere should feel like.

Women have breasts, it is one of our defining characteristics.  After having my son, mine have grown to fabulous proportions and I love them.  I wish fashion did.  Somewhere along the line stretchy fabrics have replaced darts and gathering.  I can't tell you the amount of dresses that I've seen in sizes 10 and up that could only accommodate a modest A cup at best.  All summer I watched girls with fabulous figures stroll by in sundresses with tank tops underneath.  Its not a fashion statement, its a necessity.  I like the bodice of my dress to cover more than the average pasty.

Even vintage reproductions can be just as bad.  I recently picked up a modern vintage reproduction dress from a business whose initials are QOH.  Original tags still attached and in a desirable size.  I figured it would be an easy sell on my ebay store.  Then I started to look at it.  The satin fabric is bottom of the barrel,  though the size is far into the "Plus" rage, there is no room to accommodate breasts, there isn't a hem, simply an overcast stitch, and worst of all....  The fabric wasn't cut on the grain.  You girls who so know what I mean, especially when dealing with satin.  The pieces of the bodice were cut out to economize on fabric, making the finished piece an odd mish-mash of shiny and dull.  Frankly, I'm embarrassed to list it, so it sits in storage, with its $100+ price tag still attached.  

While reading a pattern catalog I stumbled across the above drawing, used in an ad in 1942 that seemed to sum up my thoughts.  If you don't start with quality (patterns, materials, construction methods), you're not going to get quality.  It made me mentally examine my own wardrobe, what has lasted me the longest and what I buy simply to get by.  I can't think of a modern produced item that I have purchased in the last 2 years that is still going strong in my wardrobe, yet its easy to pick out a vintage piece that has been in regular rotation for 10+ years.

Obviously, there is good and bad in everything, but the good is just so darn hard to find.  I'm sticking to what I know....Vintage is worth the price, I'm off to buy more now.....


  1. This is a fantabulous post. Love it! The fabric used now is SO CHEAP and you're definitely right about the sundresses. You have to be an A cup to fit and usually even then you're showing more than most girls want to. Every modern dress and top I buy I have to use pins. Pins to hold the buttons closed because there are usually no darts for my chest and the buttons gape. They should included matching safety pins with all new outfits

  2. Well said! One of the many reasons I was and am attracted to vintage, is because it fits my figure in a very flattering way. I look downright frumpy in modern clothes, and see many girls with my same figure who have so much less confidence in their bodies because there's just nothing out there for them, and they haven't discovered vintage.

    And you are so right about cashmere, and really wool in general. From my experience it seems like the quality of wools took a major turn for the worse in the 70s, and stayed that way :(


  3. LOL about the matching safety pins Trixie!

    The post is right on the money! Agreed on the Scottish wool and cashmere, it really is a beautiful fiber that will last. I just had an hour long convo about this with a friend yesterday, she bought an expensive top that shredded on her body and she's had it. So many people are fed up with crap quality. I wish we could bring back the skilled union garment jobs to America, it really clothed the world, and so well! 90% of the garments made in the world until the 60s were made here. So glad we have ladies like you who can source these rare gems and keep them in circulation.

    I'm struggling to choose the best quality fabric for a production run and I actually some fabrics that are woven in the US! They're really nice, there is hope! The demand can change the marketplace.


    Trixie - I know what you mean about the safety pins. I got really annoyed at Torrid one day when I saw those little buttons they sell just for this purpose. All I could think of was "if you made a decent blouse, people wouldn't need these!!"

    Solanah - I feel the same way about body image and vintage. I try to shop in a modern store and its a nightmare trying to figure out what size I actually wear and having it be too loose and too tight in all the wrong places. I step into a vintage store, grab something of a flattering style in my waist size and voila! It fits!

    I just sold a 75% wool - 25% mohair sweater from the 60s that was so light and fluffy, I thought there must have been angora in it. Modern wool makes me itch just looking at it.

    Nudee - First, thanks for realizing that I was not talking about your awesome reproduction goodies! Its my personal observation that part of the reason Americans aren't spending like they used to is that they're sick of spending money on crap.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with next. Do you need a tester?

  5. Yes, sick of spending my (tiny) money on their overpriced garbage. Which is why I think there is more modern crap in thrifts than vintage. You just don't part with vintage, know what I mean?

    Spot on, woman!

  6. I completely agree with you. I hate going to trendy stores and finding that everything is made out of kleenex. My solution has been thrift shopping for vintage quality items, although those can be hard to come by.
    Wearing It On My Sleeves

  7. Just a quick note to wish you and your family a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
    Z xx