Sign Me Up for Karaoke

by Erin on February 7, 2011

Some purists sniff, if not sneer, at the trend. Madeline Meyerowitz, owner of the vintage clothing Web site enokiworld.com, which sells labels like Courrèges and Claire McCardell, likened designers of reproduction clothing to singers at a karaoke bar. “I don’t want to hear you sing it, I want to hear the original artist sing it,” she said. [This Old Thing? Actually, It's New]

I got a bunch of links to the above-quoted article at the NYT about repro vintage clothing … and the quote above really stood out (even more than "Men treat me differently when I wear vintage or something that looks vintage"). 

To me the karaoke metaphor, far from being a big slam, really highlights one of the things I love about the repro fashion movement … audience participation! I love vintage, but as we get farther away from the time periods whose clothing we love, the laws of supply and demand kick in: too many people chasing too few original objects means higher prices. (Great for Enokiworld, not so good for buyers.) Repro vintage means that more people can enjoy the same things we love: full skirts, kicky collars, and pockets!

Repro (especially DIY repro!) is inclusive, and builds community. I don't see a community forming around owning a Celine leather tunic (maybe I'm just hanging out in the wrong places? And in the wrong clothes?) but people are still congregating around the Butterick Walk-Away Dress – and even the reissue pattern is four years old!

I see repro as supporting lots of things I love: independent fashion, vintage aesthetics, and a deeper, more thoughtful relationship with the clothes we wear. And traditional vintage should only be helped, not hurt, by the repro movement: once you make a Claire McCardell pattern, your taste will definitely be whetted for the real thing. (Trust me, I speak from experience.)

What's your take? Are you vintage-only, DIY-only, repro-only, or a mix? 

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss Jolie February 7, 2011 at 5:30 am

I’m vintage and DIY !

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Sarah Dyer February 7, 2011 at 6:13 am

I was once vintage-only, but I wore it all so long it started to wear out….and then I looked around and realized I could never afford to replace it all! I still have some vintage left, but also wear repro (not much, I can’t really afford it either) and DIY. (And, you know, modern clothes too!) And to be honest, while there are certain things about vintage that no-one can afford to reproduce, the repro and DIY stuff certainly all fits and holds up a lot better.

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Rueby February 7, 2011 at 6:47 am

I enjoy vintage and very little repro as most of it is constructed like crap (Stop Staring, really?) and of crap fabric. I don’t really consider the sewing I may do from vintage patterns to be repro, it is original to me…but made now instead of then.

That whole article was a bit of a laugh to me though!

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Lydia February 7, 2011 at 7:23 am

Ms. Meyerowitz can get stuffed. I would rather wear something vintage-inspired *that fits me well* than attempt to cram my long torso and generous biceps into a vintage garment.

But of course Meyerowitz wouldn’t approve. She doesn’t many clothes to wardrobe DIYers. She does, however, sell vintage accessories–something lots of us reproduction folks love. Seems to me she’s not doing herself any favors by turning up her nose at a sizable demographic of customers.

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Amy Chojnacki February 7, 2011 at 7:59 am

I wouldn’t say I turn my nose up at reproductions, but I definitely don’t wear them. I’m proud of my closet, which is a carefully cultivated wardrobe of vintage, collected over the years.

For me, I love the thrill of the hunt. I love finding that perfect vintage dress hanging on the rack and that moment of “OMG, will this fit?!” Shopping would be far less fun if I just went to Modcloth and ordered whatever I wanted.

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Jen O February 7, 2011 at 8:23 am

Snobbery will exist where ever people can find a superior place to sit, which is my take on the ‘vintage only’ argument.

One POV not mentioned in that article: that of the costume historian who would prefer that NO ONE wear vintage (or at least the diminishing group of designer labels). Obviously, as items are worn, they wear out–poof. In some people’s eyes, that is a strong argument for reproductions and retro styles.

As a vintage seller, when I started, it took me awhile to get over the guilt of selling out my collection to people who were going to wear them. I still archive the ‘best’ or irreplaceable pieces (and I love BOTH vintage and retro styles)

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karen February 7, 2011 at 8:58 am

I also wear both. I like the easy care of reproductions, but I must say that I have a strong emotional attachment to the vintage pieces in my closet that I don’t have for my more modern things.

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Becky Stancill February 7, 2011 at 9:13 am

For those of us who are not in vintage shape the only way to own a vintage dress is to buy and modern made repro or make it ourselves. I sew for myself – my wedding dress 5 years ago was from a Butterick reprinted vintage pattern.

There is a place for all but no room for such snobbery in my world.

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Cathi February 7, 2011 at 11:57 am

I would love to buy vintage. BUT there isn’t a heck of a lot out there in my size so I would have to remake it (which I hear is a huge sin!) and where would I find it? I do not live in a vintage friendly area.
So I DIY with retro patterns and vintage ones when I can find (and afford) them and to heck with the so called purists of vintage. I wear what I want, when and where I want and how I want….hey, that’s why I started sewing in the first place hmmmm.

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Dawn February 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm

If I make a garment from a vintage or repro pattern, it isn’t my goal to make people believe it’s a genuine original from that era. Most people wouldn’t think that, anyway, either because they know about sewing/fashion or because they don’t. My goal is to make something in a style I like, that isn’t available off the rack. It just isn’t 1947 anymore, and no more of those dresses are being produced, so what are you supposed to do?

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Wogglebug February 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I tend to spill things on my clothes and kneel on the floor and stretch out the knees. I would feel guilty about damaging a beautiful old garment. So on the whole, I’d be at least as happy with equal-quality modern clothes made to the old designs.

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Betsy February 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I agree with the “audience participation” argument to DIY vintage clothing. In the 40′s, 50′s, 60′s, etc it was extremely common and normal for women to construct their own clothing, so actually making dresses from those patterns, in my mind, is a much more true “vintage” experience. Sure we may have polyester zippers now, but the relationship with clothing and appearance is much more realistic. I’m sure women back then came in all the shapes and sizes that we have now (perhaps accentuated by undergarments, but that can only do so much), so the lack of variety in sizes of original clothing in my mind reflects which women were able to accumulate enough clothing that they didn’t wear out soon enough.

Oh, and I like Kareoke too. I also like live jazz, classical, rock and just about anything. There is an intensity and originality to live music, even if it never has quite the same level of perfection as the original performing artist. Sometimes it’s actually better than the original composer! If we were as snobby with classical music as this lady is about clothing, then we would never again hear any music written by dead musicians who lived before the age of recorded music. What a loss that would be!

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NessyS February 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I think DIY is the best way to go – unless you have a “vintage” figure and a “many figure” salary to buy the better pieces. .

I use new and vintage patterns. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a deep appreciate for original vintage clothing and all the beauty, glamor, rich history and uniqueness such garments posses.

Hey Erin – I heard you on the radio today, all the way-a-way down here in Australia. What thrill to hear you and terms so dear to me coming down the air way – like “BurdaStyle” so sweet! Your book sounds adorable and you are a very articulate, talented and sweet lady. I checked out the Heidi you said you where wearing – lovely! x

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Anne (from Sarah Vain and Tall) February 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I would love to wear originals. If anybody has any that will fit my 6’1″ frame, I would love to meet you.

Till then, I’m with Betsy: “it was extremely common and normal for women to construct their own clothing, so actually making dresses from those patterns, in my mind, is a much more true “vintage” experience… women back then came in all the shapes and sizes that we have now .. so the lack of variety in sizes… reflects which women were able to accumulate enough clothing that they didn’t wear out soon enough.”

I buy patterns and fit them to me. It won’t surprise any sewers, but adding the typical 2″ height increase allowed even in the pre-marked customisable patterns is truly enough to fit me. My Mum was 6’0″ back in the 60s, and she wasn’t the only one.

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Turtleknits February 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I vote “mix” but in reality, on my budget, it’s mostly DIY. (I window shop at the repo sites.) I won’t get a 40′s hairstyle, though – that feels too costumey for me.

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Sara February 8, 2011 at 1:36 am

“If we were as snobby with classical music as this lady is about clothing, then we would never again hear any music written by dead musicians who lived before the age of recorded music. What a loss that would be!”

That is an excellent analogy and point.

I’m a DIYer. For one thing, I can’t afford vitange or repro ($100+ for a dress is a bit much for me…) and for another, I can get the clothes I want in the colour, fabric pattern, and style I want much easier if I just make it myself.

I had to lol when I saw that the Butterwick Walk-Away dress is one of the very first patterns I ever bought, as well as one of my favorites.

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Theresa February 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Here here Erin! I like it all vintage, reproduction vintage, things that look vintage but aren’t. And yes, I love the community of sewers here on this blog. I get excited everytime Vogue, Butterick or Simplicity reprint one of their original vintage patterns.

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Lynn February 18, 2011 at 6:25 am

I sew most of my own clothes and I am determinedly non-stylish but I haven’t tried repro yet.

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Buffalo Gal February 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm

There are very valuable arguments made here. In our store, we carry both vintage and repro clothing, because the heart of our business is to make our customers feel beautiful and satisfied. Whether it takes a repro or vintage piece is up to them! We also support local seamstresses who are working from vintage and repro patterns, which is really a win-win situation we love.

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