A Month of Clothing Philosophy: Vintage Inspired, But Not Vintage Accurate

I wore yet another Comino Cap dress today for Me Made May. This was the first one I made, and it’s almost worn out now. (Also…hashtag: #TerribleBacklighting.)

A Month of Clothing Philosophy — Part Six
Vintage Inspired, But Not Vintage Accurate

I enjoy history, but I’m more concerned with the daily life of people in the past than the dates of important events or which dead white guy did what. I’m far more interested in what people wore and what they ate and how things functioned day-to-day. (This shouldn’t shock any of you who know that I’m writing a historical romance novel.) Although my main area of research for literary purposes is the 19th century, my main historical fashion inspiration is the middle of the 20th century.

I love the silhouettes of the 1940s and 1950s, but mid-century accuracy — and its compulsory femininity — is definitely less appealing. In a previous essay I described myself as medium fat, but I also consider myself medium femme. Sure, I wear red lipstick every day — I even wear red lipstick to the grocery store — but liquid eyeliner and false lashes are for very special occasions only. (Or, to be honest, maybe never at all?) I use hairspray three or four times a year, but I haven’t used curlers since probably 2003. My regular daily hairstyle (side combs and a bun) is historically inspired, sure — but it takes about a minute and a half to do. And I may love the look of a crinoline filled skirt, but I’m not going to wear high heels and a girdle anywhere but on a stage.

There are a lot of talented people out there sewing and knitting vintage styles in modern ways, some of them as a rebellious reclamation — a way to reinterpret and make toothless a period of great social oppression. (At least two of my favorite vintage sewists are queer and covered in tattoos, for instance. They would have some trouble fitting in in a time travel scenario.) And as much as I admire the folks who go all out with their vintage style creations, that kind of detailed accuracy would only feel like a costume to me, not like my actual clothes.

This may also be because I also really like modern, pared back styles, too. I know it’s a bit of a contradiction — loving both modern simplicity and vintage styles — but finding the right balance between the two is a fun challenge. I think the Comino Cap dress is a perfect example of this. Its a-line skirt and little cut-on cap sleeves have a near-40s silhouette, but its knit fabric and lack of ornamentation are purely modern. (The shoes pictured above are also a good example. They look vintage-y, but they’re just modern Clarks — and very comfortable.)

Medium fat, medium femme, and seeking a happy medium between the past and the present — I guess I’m simply trying to find a sartorial middle way.


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