Yesterday I was innocently scrolling through my Facebook feed.
It’s a thing I often do when I should be doing actual work. I call it research and tell myself that I work in Social Meeja so, you know, this IS work.
Anyway, while doing very important Social Meeja research yesterday I came across a photo posted by a rather wonderful vintage site I follow. It was a 1950s photograph of a 1950s model in a 1950s suit. She looked very nice. I like 1950s suits, I like 1950s hair and I like 1950s Make Up, it appeals to me visually. Underneath the photo were a good smattering of comments from other people who also like 1950s suits. There were also a good smattering of comments from people who seemed to think that anyone who didn’t like 1950s suits dressed “like a tramp”.
Now, I know that getting annoyed with the stupid comments people put on the internet is like booking a one way trip on the crazy plane, but it just made me start thinking about the sort of thing I’ve been hearing more and more often whilst floating around the “vintage” quarter of the interweb.
As “Vintage” gets bigger and bigger as a fashion movement and the word seems to have less and less actual meaning I’m finding myself exhausted by the constant assertion that things were better in the “Good Old Days”. It’s nothing new, of course, people have been saying that for years, but they’re normally at least people who lived through it complaining about the youth of today. Seeing people in their early 20s using their mobile phones to post comments on the internet about how much better things were in decades they not only didn’t live through, but their parents and grandparents were probably too young to really remember either is somewhat odd.
Using your personal fashion preference to delude yourself that you are somehow elevated above the perceived crassness of modern day styles and make comments that imply other women are “cheap” because of the clothes they choose to wear is more than somewhat odd, it’s just downright weird.
If you know anything about the social history behind those “classy” vintage images then you’ll know that in the 1950s those classier, more covered up bikinis you so love were seen as dangerously scandalous. Marilyn Monroe, that vintage icon of classy sex appeal, was called vulgar for wearing a plunging gold lamé dress to the Photoplay awards in the 1950s. All that’s changed is our cultural perceptions of those outfits.
My love of what we now call “vintage” partly grew out of an obsession with WWII and a book called Growing Up at War when I was little. I was fascinated by the hardships and by the inventive measures people took to overcome them. I mixed all that in with a good smattering of 1950s movies, a love of Poirot in the 1990s and a fondness for looking at pretty frocks and over many years that has seen an evolution of my style and interest in history. It never gave me an assumption that the way I chose to dress was somehow better than anyone elses.
I have expressed sadness in the past at the death of dressing up, but actually it’s something I feel like I’ve seen a bit of a return to a little over the last year or so. What I find sad is the lack of politeness in dress, within our current cultural “norms”, not specific fashions. (for reference. Wearing your pyjamas to the supermarket – rude. Wearing jeans to a wedding reception – rude. Wearing a short skirt to the pub – absolutely acceptable as long as I can’t see your knickers, if I can, sort of rude, unless you meant it and they’re your best knickers, not the ones with holes in.)
I’ve also written about how you should dress however you damn well please.
You don’t have to like all fashions. You’re perfectly entitled to express an opinion on them and even to make humorous comments suggesting teenagers should buy a belt and pull their jeans up, while secretly wondering how the hell they actually don’t fall down around their ankles (if you know, please tell me as it fascinates me).
There are reasons I am not a fan of specific fashions. The very short skirted, platform shoes, false eyelashed look that seems popular in the sort of pubs and clubs that make me feel very, very, old isn’t a look for me. I believe, personally, that it’s a fashion that is part of the pornification of culture, that it is designed specifically to make women appear vulnerable and available. What I don’t do, however, is assume that all the women wearing it are vulnerable and available, nor do I think it’s innately any classier to wear a skin tight 1950s dress and red lipstick, which lets face it, are styles that in the 50s did exactly the same thing as a mini skirt and platforms do now.
The clothes we chose to wear will always make a statement about us to the world, and one that we would do well to at least give a passing thought to occasionally. That’s the way the world works, we will be judged on the clothing we chose to wear, sad but true. I’m not even sure I’d argue that that judgement is always bad, life gets hellish complicated if you don’t make any assumptions about people based on outward appearance, but it’s a good idea to question those judgements you make and ask yourself why you are making them, particularly if you plan to make any actions or decisions based on them or post any stupid comments on the Internet.
There’s lots of things I don’t like about the modern world. too many different types of toothpaste, TVs that take over the entire wall of your house and out of town “retail parks” among them, but the fact that we have such a range of choice in dress and personal expression isn’t one of them.
I’m sure everyone who reads Retro Chick is a thoughtful and balanced person, a person with class and sophistication who would never dream of making sweeping judgements about a woman’s morals, sexual proclivities or attitude towards men based merely on the fact that they are wearing a 1950s suit, a mini skirt from New Look or a pair of dungarees and DMs, but if you do happen to know that person, feel free to point them in this direction.
RANT OF THE DAY OVER. Feel free to discuss in a grown up and civilised manner, as judged by me….