Alternatives to authentic vintage

If you want something very specific in vintage clothing, something in a size that is not easily found, or something with a certain je ne c’est quoi that you don't think is available to you in the market, you may find a solution by going with a newly made item.

pattern available at VtgSewingPatterns on Etsy
If you are a skilled seamstress you probably already know you can pick out a vintage pattern (or a newly made vintage reproduction pattern by one of the major pattern companies) and find a vintage fabric or one that has a vintage vibe, and make your own garment. If you are not able to do this yourself, you might wish to find someone who can. Your local seamstress may be up to this task, and may also be able to alter the pattern to fit you just right. There are Etsy seamstresses who create vintage-style items that could create something to your exact specifications.

There are many vintage reproduction and vintage-style clothing sites out there, and I must confess, I have no personal experience with them. I had to ask on Facebook, Twitter and at the Vintage Fashion Guild for other's experiences with makers of new vintage-style clothing. I got so many thoughtful and detailed responses that I will probably devote more time to the subject in the future. For now, I'll be brief.

Some people out-and-out refuse to consider repro vintage. More about this later. Some of the websites that were recommended to me, and that seem to meet certain standards for quality, style and fair labor practices are:

Re-mix Classic Vintage Footwear, where the shoes appear to be faithful reproductions of vintage styles from the 20s through 50s, and are made in Spain. The Gal Friday 40s-style model is currently on sale for $98, down from $206.

Then there's the Esther Williams Swimwear Collection, and from all I can tell, she really is behind this, at the ripe old age of 90. I like this classic sheath suit, available in a range of sizes and colors, and all the swimsuits are made in the US.

Another site that was recommended to me was Vivien of Holloway, and a reply to my inquiry confirmed that all the items on the site are made in Tottenham, North London.

I also really like the look of the workmanship that goes into Whirling Turban items, which are made by skilled seamstresses in Bali.

You may be able to see already that these sites are making very popular vintage styles, providing access to these items for a wide range of people, without having to wait to see the right item come up for sale.

Several other prospects recommended to me: Heyday! Vintage Style Clothing (the clothes are made in the UK and New Zealand) Freddies of Pinewood (jeans made in Turkey, the rest made in the UK) and Time Machine Vintage Reproduction Clothing on Etsy (made in Vermont).

There are reasons for going with repro and vintage-inspired clothing: You might want to replicate an item that has become unwearable, or something you see in a photo. You might want to wear something from the Victorian era through the 1920s but relatively few genuine items are really safe to wear. Some would like to be able to swing dance like mad without having to worry about ruining a great vintage dress. Some would like to try their own hand at making something their mother might have made.

I am intrigued by repro clothing, and I see many cute styles, but I feel torn. I would want to know that the item is made where the workers are not underpaid (and as you can see I've tried to insure that with these recommendations). I can almost certainly guarantee that most repro clothing sites—some of the above shops may prove the exceptions—do not replicate the workmanship that went into the original models, and I mean even the quality of day-to-day clothing from the past. I think Mary Kincaid made this case succinctly on Zuburbia.

I have to say that for every several people who told me about her good experiences with repro clothing, one told me either that she was very disappointed with the quality or fit of an item, or simply would never consider repro. Again, this may be a choice for the individual. I've never considered it, but then I'm not exceptionally tall, in a rush to find a sarong dress from the 50s, or a swing dance champion. I also just don't buy much new clothing.

I have absolutely no misgivings about creating an item out of a vintage pattern, and I may eventually be able to endorse a repro vintage site personally...I do love that pink bathing suit!

Next time: Vintage myth busting