What Vintage Means To Me

These pants are heavy. Substantial in a way that guarantees that if I were to pack them in a suitcase, they would be the sole item accompanying me. Despite them being 100% suede, I like to believe that their density partly comes from the number of experiences, encounters, and ensembles to which they have been privy. Originally designed in the 1970s, in Hong Kong, for Saks Fifth Avenue, these pants have (in my romantic mind) been transported from locale to locale, woman to woman. Aged in a way that women with an abundance of good stories tend to do, the pants are far from being cookie-cutter perfect. There are blemishes around the ankles that I imagine came during a late night of skipping through the snowy streets of Paris. There is a mysterious stain on the left knee that over time has glued the material together in a way that makes the left leg sit slightly differently on my body to the right one. And the inner lining has seen better days, thanks to a night when a previous owner was hurrying to get ready for a concert in Tokyo and ripped through it with the heels of her boots. She, of course, still went to the concert.

Yet, throughout the decades, these pants have maintained their status as a statement piece; this, I can be sure. When they were first purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue in the 1970s, their original owner must have looked the image of luxurious style. Wherever she was, she could never have envisioned the journey these pants would take. A route that brought them to Dead Byrd Vintage’s stall at the Cleveland Flea earlier this year. I first observed them during the Summer Flea; but, the afternoon was so sweltering that I couldn’t imagine wanting to wear them, and so I instead opted for two dresses and a ridiculous 80s sweater (as seen in this vlog). When they were still there at the Winter Flea, I knew it was time to try them on and the rest – as they say – was history. It also helped that the rest of the women around me – most of them strangers – complimented the pants with so much enthusiasm that I felt like I would be letting down the team if I didn’t purchase them. Luckily, I have yet to regret that decision. In fact, I feel honored to be a brief character in the story of these pants.

For these photos, I styled the pants with another meaningful vintage piece, a knit sweater from the 1960s. A couple of months ago I was introduced to Vintage Apparel Cle, a pop-up shop that sells new-old-stock made in Cleveland knitting mills from the 1950s-1980s. To cut a long story short, throughout the decades, one of the workers involved with the mills kept a large stockpile of sample pieces and overstock in his home. When the collection was recently found, none of it had ever been worn, and the original tags were still on the pieces. So, the clothes were packed up and relocated to the pop-up shop for people like me to purchase a slice of Cleveland history. The whole backstory, the concept of the pop-up shop, and the beauty of the knitwear pieces have had me gushing for months. So you can only imagine how proud I feel to be wearing an article that was dreamt up and executed in the wonderful city of Cleveland.

In addition to the environmental reasons for shopping second-hand, I gravitate towards shopping vintage because it connects me to other women, to an unknowable past that I would like to inhabit, and the ways in which the same piece of clothing has influenced different lives. Vintage speaks of freedom, an escapism towards an appreciation of the legacy of beautiful things. With each piece, I feel privileged to get the chance to add a new chapter to something that has been loved and treasured for years or decades longer than I have even existed. An addition to my vintage collection often feels like an inheritance from a wonderful stranger.

Vintage is also a reminder that personal style isn’t about newness or mass-production; but, instead, it is about how you interpret an item. And, what is more, this interpretation can only be generated by how you individually see the world. What is more exquisite than that? Just thinking about it makes me want to explode with happiness. For someone obsessed with histories and stories and the means by which these narratives affect the present, vintage is the style that makes sense. It fuels my daydreams, sparks my creativity, and arouses my heart in a way that no man ever can. That is what vintage means to me.

Outfit Details

Vintage 1960’s sweater from Vintage Apparel Cle / Vintage 1970’s suede pants from Dead Byrd Vintage / Forever 21 faux fur coat / Zara velvet nautical cap / Loéil bag / Thrifted boots / Vintage earrings

Photos by Mel Costanzo


Originally published on December 20th, 2017

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