Is my red lipstick staying put? Are my curls holding? Do I have the right gloves for this dress? Am I doing vintage right?
For years, even decades of my life, vintage was not a mainstream thing in popular culture. Those of us who loved and wore vintage were certainly not in the majority. Television, movies, a few books, and the very occasional magazine spread influenced us, but not the overwhelming, non-stop presence of social media and its cast of influencers.
When I first wore vintage as a teenager, I felt a certain power in my self-expression through vintage. So many that wear vintage got started because they are independent, creative types, not prone to following others’ styles.
But then came the internet—especially when social media took off—and the ability to see what others are doing around the world. This gave people of all interests a vastly larger community.
Social media has changed the world of vintage fashion wearing, buying, selling, collecting, and learning. Much of this is for the good; it’s wonderful to get to know people across the globe who share your interest, and the vintage community online is mostly very welcoming and supportive. But even in this community, there are rumblings of anxiety, self-esteem issues, and depression that seem to correlate with comparing oneself to others or groups of others. After all, we can now witness perfected images, the highlights of lives, and the success of businesses by the thousands every day.
Starting to get anxious just reading this? It isn’t just you: A November 2018 Forbes article cites studies which show that time spent on social media is directly related to feelings of depression and loneliness in research subjects. In the world of vintage:
Vintage wearers: So-and-so is the perfect size for wearing vintage, knows everything about it, has all the money to buy the best items out there, gets to vacation at vintage events, and always has perfect hair and makeup. Oh, and her super attractive partner takes her stunning photos. Did I mention she wears a 5 1/2 in shoes and has zero competition for vintage footwear?
Vintage sellers: So-and-so has 100 times my number of followers, finds the absolute coolest items, has free help from her sister, and sells everything instantly for insanely high prices. Oh, and her house is mid-century modern, and even her cat is unbelievably photogenic.
You know the bit. If you don’t, I’m thrilled for you!
How do you feel when you see an email subject line that reads “Vintage Wearing Do’s and Don’t’s,” or look at a vintage maven’s Instagram feed that seems to include 100% of your wish-list items (all strictly NFS)? How about when you see that everyone you follow seems to be getting fabulous at applying winged eyeliner even though you’ve decided it isn’t for you? Vintage people aren’t bullies but we—being only human—can feel distressed, belittled, and lonely.
Further, it isn’t just social media that pressures us. I have been at vintage shows and events where I saw a definite hierarchy, and even heard expressions of inadequacy, as if you had to be somebody in particular to be at this event, or even to wear vintage.
How to combat this?
Just because a certain style of vintage fashion is popular doesn’t mean you should adhere to it. There is a vintage style for everyone, and I would invite you to find your way to what makes you feel confident and happy.
Spend time IRL. See your friends and cruise your town. Surf the real world, as one of my friends says.
Practice noticing the beauty and confidence in others who are not perfect, then practice the same for yourself.
What is the difference between fashion and style? Fashion says, 'Me, too,' and style, 'Only me.' -Geraldine Stultz
Real style is never right or wrong. It's a matter of being yourself on purpose. -G. Bruce Boyer
You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody. -Maya Angelou
I’m writing this blog at this moment because I need it. Now 58 and with a chronic illness, I realize that I need to get out of the joy-killing comparison and jealousy trap myself. I know I genuinely root for others being themselves, and my goal is to accept myself too. I want to be conscious of the perceived perfection I can feel closing in on me when I’m on social media or even at live events. I want to get back to the joy of vintage, which for me is about self-expression.
This is an excerpt from the draft of my book:
Now that wearing vintage fashion is trendy, you’ll find that in some places there is a tribal aspect to vintage, where people who identify with each other tend to dress similarly in their vintage fashions. Often hair and makeup is part of the look, and a great deal of effort goes into a perfected appearance. That can be a lovely sight, but it can also be intimidating. Don’t let it be. It’s never wrong to be a self-assured and stylish pack of one.
Who can wear vintage? I can’t think of one single person who can’t. You do not have to be part of the boho or rockabilly scenes. You don’t have to have perfect red lipstick and victory rolls, false eyelashes and a Vidal Sassoon bob, finger waves and silk stockings. You don’t have to be part of any tribe, or belong to any club…
Among other human hierarchies, social media doesn’t have to feel bad if we understand our relationship to it, and live not only with it, but without it.
My advice: Be-YOU-tiful.