Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vintage Clothing Stores in the 1980's (Vintage vintage, 1978-1985)

Good morning!

Today's hot topic question at She Was a Bird, and I sure would like your ten cents on it....does it ever kill you, as a collector, to think of what was out there before you were out there?

Matthew's dad's wife April , possessed of one of the most impressive collections of Fiestaware and early color ceramics I've actually seen in real life, always tells me about how she and her brothers would go to junk stores and yard sales and flea markets in California in the seventies' and eighties' and pick up the kinds of things I drool over in collector cases at antique malls-- fifties' cowboy boots and velvet cloche hats and the aforementioned Fiestaware (she's got teacups, bowls, would honestly make Andy Warhol a little jealous) for practically the price of asking. "You would have loved it!" April says, and I don't disagree! Living in a world where the most remote outposts of the world still afford a person possessed of a vintage item and enough tech savvy to do a Google search the ability to ask crazy town prices on items that may or may not harbor anywhere near the value seen online is a frustrating reality for the retrophilic millennial such as yours truly. You want to tell the seller, sure, that Beatles' record is on ebay for $600, but it's because it's in mint condition and part of a limited, original run from 1965; thus it is not quite the same as your has-been-moldering-in-the-basement-for-forty-years-reissue-from-the-seventies-copy. ((steps off soap box)).

The thing that interests me most in terms of collectibles that were floating around in the seventies', eighties', and even nineties' which have skyrocketed in terms of price or have been hunted into extinction are of course clothes. 

How can you not love this woman? When in doubt, accessorize non-stop chiffon and velvet with a cockatiel.
Back in the day, if you wanted to dress like Stevie Nicks (see above, and let's be honest, what red blooded, fashionable American girl among us does not want to dress EXACTLY LIKE STEVIE NICKS), it was possible to go in an antique shop or vintage store, pick up an honest-to-God Edwardian lace dress and black opera shawl...or hook and eye boots....or a velvet cape and an ostrich plumed fan...and walk out without having put a lien on your house. In small cities, I doubt you needed much more than a good eye, the tenacity to do some digging in thrift store bins, and a pocketful of change. Some of this is the natural progression of collectors' items. The longer between the time the item was manufactured and the time you get it in your hot little hands has a lot to do with price and condition, as well as the scarcity of items, but so does the person naming the price and the condition it's been kept in lo these many years.

I love to think of a time, before I was even born, when people were discovering items that were vintage then, and actually new waaaaay before I was born. Do you ever stop and think about it, whippersnappers in my age group?

Below, I've collected for you a series of articles on beginner's vintage clothing buying and selling and collecting from the late seventies' and early eighties'. Read what you care to read and do tell: would you rather shop now, where you can have any item in the entire world at the click of a mouse, or then, when the hills were still filled with undiscovered treasures, but you had to actually go out and mine them yourselves? How do you think the vintage stores of the eighties' would stack up to the vintage stores of now, both online and brick-and-mortar, in terms of what they have and how much they charge for it?

Read on!

Cincinnati Magazine Apr 1983:

"A dollar for a beaded, low-waisted 20's tunic" just actually gave me a physical pang of envy. Now, in 2012 money, that's probably closer to $2. OH WAIT THAT DOES NOT MAKE ME FEEL BETTER AT ALL.

New York magazine, 1981:
I'm really interested in the idea of twenties', thirties', and forties' evening wear being out there on the market. I've had some decent luck at flea markets with pre-1950 clothes (I found a 1920's two-piece ensemble, mint condition, for TEN. DOLLARS. last month), but I hardly ever see them at estate sales. And online or in a vintage store? FOR.GET.IT. Unless you have money to literally light on fire, it's hopeless. The store on the right boasts a forties' Parisian gown at $164, but I'm convinced those are just "New York prices".

Texas Monthly, 1981; Cincinnati magazine, 1979:
Think about the couple in the ad at center, and take away their 80's hair and makeup stylings. That is STILL a great outfit on either of them! Try and say that about practically any contemporary look from the same year. The little fez-ish hat is killing me.

 New York magazine, 1984:
I WANT TO BE YOU, HARVEY RUSSACK. 26,000 square feet of vintage? Imagine how much fun. Imagine! I like the idea that he's branched out into weird, of-his-own design stuff outside of vintage ("laced boxer shorts" and "Catskills porch furniture"? Sign me UP).

 New York magazine, 1978:
 Note the "Vintage Clothing" section mentioned in the first column: "sports real finds from the 50's (think poodle skirts and applique sweaters) and the 40's (draped afternoon 'frocks'). A fashion goldmine of memories". In a department store JUNIORS SECTION, for goodness sake! Can you believe it? Wouldn't "buyer for the Macy's vintage clothes section" be possibly the hippest existence in creation in year of our Lord 1978? Besides being Stevie Nicks, of course.

 New York magazine, 1982
To the left, the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers had to "deaccession" (read: sell off) some of their clothing collection. ONE THOUSAND PIECES. This sounds like an actual dream I might have had. To the right, deadstock 1920's dresses that look exactly like something Mary Pickford would wear in one of her grown-up, shopgirl roles (think My Best Girl with Buddy Rogers), lace collar and all. The price is steep ($90 each is more like $200 now) but where could you even find one of these nowawdays? Hopefully at the next flea market (fingers crossed).

Orange Coast magazine, 1985 (more of the article if you click this link, plus pictures):
I WANT TO GO TO EACH OF THESE STORES. Also say, "Dior 'New Look' jacket for about $10" one more time and I will personally slap the taste out of your mouth, 1985 reporter. JEsum CROW how can that be a real thing. I'm going to keep telling myself she's lying.

What do you think? Have you been collecting long enough that you remember these bygone days of vintage shopping where everything was permitted? What's the most valuable vintage item you've ever scored for a criminally low price? Do you have any secret places that somehow have 1980's prices for 2012 vintage? Let a girl know!

That's all for today; I'm gonna go nurse my broken heart in some forties' movie books, but I'll see you tomorrow for Photo Friday!


  1. Well, I graduated high school in Phoenix, AZ in 1991. (Yeah, I'm old. GET OFF MAH LAWN!) And vintage stores were pretty awesome then in terms of deals to be favorite thing was a silk-lined beaded cashmere cardigan from the 1950's that I'm sure I paid a whopping $15 for. I used to pick up little pillbox hats from the '50s to wear to clubs (I thought I was sort of punk rock for about 15 minutes) for a couple of bucks. Today, I bought one at an estate sale for $10 and I'll sell it for $20. So, time have definitely changed with regard to vintage clothing. I remember seeing racks of vintage bowling shirts with names on 'em. Old cowboy boots were definitely cheaper. And '60's/'70's stuff was ridiculously cheap. I mean, there was no internet so the stuff you found was what was at the vintage store that day. And there was no Ebay, so sellers had to guess a lot more than they do now.

    I got into vintage clothes because I saw Pretty in Pink in junior high. With Molly Ringwald? And I pretty much wished I could be her with all my heart. It's funny to think about now.

  2. Ohmygosh, I like those old articles! Ha, yes I'm even older than Lauren… Shopping vintage stuff was quite cool amongst certain young people during the 1980s. Being one of them, yes there was still great stuff to be found for a reasonable price. But the vibe was more 1950s and early 1960s. Even mainstream fashion got inspired by the 1950s. An older friend (she's in her 50s now) told me about how they wore great 1930s frocks during the 1970s which they found from anywhere for grabs.
    I did write a small post on it, some time ago. It wasn't Stevie Nicks, but Carmel I really digged.

  3. My very first "bought" vintage garment was snagged when I was about 10ish...back in the late '80s when it was still easy to find good mid century stuff cheap. It was a 1950s prom dress made of taffeta, rose coloured but with a kind of golden sheen. I paid $12. And she's still hanging in my closet as we type. :)

  4. Oh yeah, I think about this stuff a LOT. I started antiquing and vintage wearing in the early 80's and let me tell you, it was ripe for the picking! No matter what genre you were into, you could find it. Oh, I miss those days. I'll forever blame e-Bay for ruining it all. <---spoken like a true old lady.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...