Illustration for article titled Love, Loss And What They Wore: What Old Clothes Are Saying.

This is seriously intriguing: Threadbared's pair of self-described "clotheshorse academics" have started a series of pieces exploring "the Politics of Vintage." And they're loaded:

Among the questions the authors tackle are,

* Is wearing a fashion from an oppressive time period indeed a symbol of that oppression?
* Is there such a thing as "reclaiming" these fashions so that they are symbols of power rather than domination?
* Should we only make patterns from the eras that were the least oppressive to women?
* If wiggle skirts and the like are offensive to those with feminist sensibilities, what is the alternative? I mean, what could we possibly wear that would establish us as feminists to those who view us?
* Are 50's wiggle skirts really that different from modern pencil skirts?
* What about current fashions that are restrictive? Stilettos, Spanx, etc? Skinny jeans? Are these symbols of oppression towards women?


Of course, these are questions that bedevil discussions of fashion of any era, but become particularly stark when the clothing is (literally) cloaked with context, that can't be dismissed. Call it ironic, call it homage, call it reclamation - there's no getting away from a statement of some kind. And there's also the draw many women feel to a silhouette that, often, is more flattering than those of a theoretically more sartorially-enlightened time. And even that becomes problematic: when we say "flattering," we still mean "showing off bodies in a traditional way." In short, it's a minefield! The blog quotes Gertie Lang:

But why do I like these looks? I hope it's not some sort of self-loathing that makes me want to wear a symbol of women's oppression. I simply prefer the silhouette of vintage fashions as opposed to the current styles offered by pattern companies. I think the design is better and the lines are more flattering. If you want to oppress me, try to make me wear a pair of skinny jeans!...I should also note that I like vintage patterns because I'm interested in the historical and archival aspect of it. I think that sewing my way through Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing is connecting me to women of the past. Doing this project, and researching the evolution of home sewing (women's work, no doubt), is a way for me to honor the lives of women past (however painful) rather than pretending they didn't exist.


Some people are put off by the idea of wearing used clothes; others love the ghosts they carry. (I've read that some psychics can't go into thrift or vintage stores because the barrage of information is too much.) And that's just the physical history; the intellectual is going to make for some timely debate.

On The Politics Of Vintage [Threadbared]

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