Is Vintage Having a Crisis?

Last weekend, while I was anxiously awaiting customers for my little booth at the Artists & Fleas Vintage NYC Showcase, I questioned, breaking out in tearful pangs of sweat, whether anyone would want to buy my expunged, secondhand want-me-nots. I wasn’t selling any pretty, embroidered gowns, or crazy patterned jumpsuits, or fuzzy monkey fur muffs like the other die-hard vendors at the venue did. I had some J Brand jeans that didn’t fit me right, Jimmy Choo heels that made me wobble, an old black turtleneck I had outgrown, and funny sunglasses I was afraid to wear. I thought I’d have to haul all my stuff back home, for lack of business, or worse yet, to my storage facility, where I pay rent, for, let’s face it, stuff I don’t want nor need.

But, to make a long story short: I sold a bunch! Somehow my booth was very popular, even though my merchandise was anything but collectible. But what was even more surprising, is that nobody seemed to be buying the princess dresses and romantic garb I so envied. Ricky at The Spooky Boutique across the way complained he didn’t make one sale the first day, while his booth was brimming with lace, feathers, sequins and gowns fit for a queen. And it made me wonder: why not? Where are the die-hard vintage fans? Why doesn’t anyone want to wear glitter and gold and hippie hats anymore? Everyone seems to be looking at the past, but no one’s dressing like it (with the exception of Valentino and Delpozo for example). My customers, young and old, seemed to want recent stuff, comfortable denim, old boots, and cute jackets.

I believe the answer is quite simple. We’re at the tail end of a revival of the 90s, which was in itself anything but flashy or whimsical. That’s not to say there isn’t any vintage 90s, but it’s much less about special pieces that stand out, like those preppy 50s dresses or colorful 60s mini skirts. The 90s trend is about blending in, about soft and lean shapes, about grey and beige and white. “People are afraid to be different,” said Ricky. And I think he’s right. With norm core, mom jeans and orthopedic sandals thriving at the corner of happy and healthy, it’s no wonder people want to conform. It’s easy fashion. And with Celine’s minimalism behind us, we’re pushing it to the extreme, because we can! It never took less time and effort to put a trendy outfit together. For the first time in ages, people can breathe and kick off their pinching heels. So what if you look like your second grade teacher? She can be a style icon too.

That said, my fall is monochrome. It’s about color on color. Whether it’s in blocks, or shades, or ton-sur-ton, I’m gonna be matching. And it’s either going to be 90s or 70s, the cosiest of decades. I admit, I don’t like to wear dresses in the winter. Mostly because I hate tights – they are not flattering and they itch! I want to wear corduroy bell bottoms with suede vests and skinny turtlenecks. And my crop Elizabeth & James jeans with Prada boots and a warm men’s coat. I want to wear mod dresses and square toe, two-inch block heels. Occasionally I will bust out the obliterating thigh highs and mini skirt, but on any given day, you will find me in a state of ‘garçonnism’. I don’t necessarily condone all this norm core, because it’s just not sexy. But I am positive the fun will return. We’re just waiting for the swing to hit its mark and reverse.

Photography by Sohrab Vahdat in Harlem, NY.

Many thanks to Monika Darby at Gilded Gypsies. Please contact her at with any purchase inquiries!

Vintage 60s suede patchwork mod mini skirt, at Gilded Gypsies: $160; Vintage 60s brown suede lace-up boots (size 8,5) at Gilded Gypsies: 195; Vintage heather blue wool fringed skirt and matching turtleneck sweater (new with tags dead stock!) by Charlie’s Mustache by Erika Elias at Gilded Gypsies: $214; My vintage striped sweater from SwaneeGrace at Artists & Fleas Vintage Show last weekend; Burgundy ‘Lilian’ Booties by Gucci; Ultracheck flared skirt and boxy top by Nicholas; Plaid ‘Hochi’ blanket coat by Whistles; Ombre sunglasses by Balenciaga at Marcolin; My favorite vintage navy blue skinny turtleneck; Gold medium flat chain link cuff by Jennifer Fisher; Gold plated brass ‘Three Lines’ ring by Artelier; Two-tone ‘Alice’ satchel by Chloé; Cobalt ‘My Own Code’ Clutch by Valentino.


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November 19, 2014

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8 Responses to “Is Vintage Having a Crisis?”

  1. avatar

    Oh Natalie – how true – I think that people are scared to look different from everyone else as a life long lover of vintage who has never looked like anyone else I think that it is quite sad not to have the confidence to make a style statement!!

    I have a mission to get eveyone to wear a little piece of vintage everyday – even it if it is just a scarf or piece of costume jewellery but what could look more amazing that a 50’s midi skirt with a pair of killer heels – as I know you know!!

    Keep wearing the vintage.
    Fabulous Miss K

  2. avatar
    Toni Hand - Reply

    OMG… I absolutely love everything vintage…. Very nice pieces…love the boots… Love the patchwork skirt… Love it all.. Very nice! Looking forward to seeing more!

  3. avatar

    Oh what a pleasure it was to sell next to you at the show! I feel an overall shift in fashion and find your observations achingly true. I heard so many young women exclaim,”is this stuff used?’ I cant believe that there are so many people around that still dont know or understand it. Maybe I have been living in a pespex fashion bubble these yon 30 years in collecting and curating? Vintage Clothing design is at its best wearable art, social commentary and historical participation. for me. But i am all for cute and comfortable! I think you are right, people
    want to blend. And your goodies were beautiful and nicely priced!
    Big Love!

  4. avatar

    OMG This was the best thing I’ve read in a while about clothes. So funny and smart!

  5. avatar

    grreat point Natalie ! I couldn’t agree more with you…..and what I also been observing, being into the vintage business myself is that people tend to buy 2nd hand pieces as you mentioned in your post . I surely don’t think vintage is having a crisis , it’s a not many people that have a passion for the old and know how to buy vintage clothing 🙂 love xx

  6. avatar

    i’m wondering who took those outstanding beautiful amazing photos?

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